June 23. 2024. 12:32

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Why Renzi is no journalist


In this edition, we look at former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s new journalist career and the damage such appointments do to independent reporting.


Why Renzi is no journalist

The links between politics and journalism are as old as time. Unfortunately, in the Italian media landscape – and elsewhere – it is rare to find leading journalists without some level of affiliation or support for a political party. Genuine independent and impartial reporting is becoming an endangered species.

Even Silvio Berlusconi, when he was the prime minister and controlled most of the press, particularly broadcasting, never dared to become the editor-in-chief.

However, there is one big difference between Renzi’s case and those mentioned above: they were the directors of a party newspaper founded by the party.

This creates a precedent in Italy, making it normal for an active politician to run what purports to be an impartial media.

Renzi’s sudden career change has not sparked massive controversy in Italy. There are similar cases of politicians becoming overnight journalists in other countries, however, this move would likely become central to the national debate.

This is the case of ex-UK Chancellor and Conservative MP George Osborne, who became editor of the Evening Standard in 2017. After heavy criticism from fellow politicians and journalists, who pointed out that Osborne’s only qualifications were that he had read rather than written for newspapers, he resigned as an MP within days of the appointment.

In addition, Renzi has become an increasingly controversial figure in Italy and abroad. An investigation of the Bankitalia anti-money laundering unit in February 2022 revealed that the senator received up to €1 million from Saudi Arabia for consultancy jobs.

In a conversation with Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman in February 2021, Renzi defined Saudi Arabia as the “new renaissance” and said he was “jealous” at the cost of labour in the Arab country. Regardless of the regime’s recent sports washing and Renzi-washing, lest we forget, this is the regime that butchered the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, relies on “pervasive surveillance, the criminalisation of dissent” and restricts almost all political rights and civil liberties, according to Freedom House.

The cross-over between politics and journalism may not be new, but those who turn a blind eye to it are culpable in undermining the health of democracy. For a Saudi spin doctor such as Renzi to now market himself as a journalist is the rankest of hypocrisy.


Politics in The Spotlight

Brutalities at external borders show EU’s failure on migration policy, the Swedish EU lawmaker Malin Björk from The Left group at the European Parliament told EURACTIV in a video interview.


Capitals-in-brief

Spanish seizure. Spain’s cultural institute building, bank accounts, and the Catalan government’s embassy building in London may be seized as part of a World Bank international arbitration against Spain, which faces claims worth €2 billion related to renewable energy subsidy schemes, according to a UK High Court order.

Macron doubles down on pension reform. The French government has no plans to water down its unpopular pension reforms despite continued public protests and trade union criticism.

Marin’s exit complicates coalition talks. Outgoing Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s decision to resign from her position as the Chair of the Social Democrats – following her party’s narrow defeat in last Sunday’s elections – could broaden the composition of Finland’s next governing coalition.

Mind the customs gap. After more than two years of post-Brexit delays, the UK has promised to introduce a light-touch set of customs rules on goods from the EU later this year, including a trusted traders’ scheme known as the UK Single Trade Window.


Inside the institutions

Greens to elect a ‘spitzenkandidat’ for next EU elections. The European Greens will officially elect a candidate for the European Commission presidency ahead of next May’s European elections, a process known as ‘spitzenkandidat’, a senior party source told EURACTIV on Friday (31 March).

EPP police raid prompts frustration from national parties. The police raid of the centre-right European People’s Party headquarters in Brussels earlier this week as part of a joint Belgian/German police inquiry into allegations of corruption in the award of digital campaigning contracts ahead of the 2019 European elections has prompted new frustration with Manfred Weber’s leadership.

Data security for eurocrats. The European Commission has removed the names of officials below the middle management level from its public register, citing security and data protection reasons, causing concerns over transparency.

Green far-right seeks election loophole. The Far-right “National Party – Greeks” founded by jailed Elias Kasidiaris, a key figure of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, is trying to find ways to bypass a law banning criminal organisations from running in the June general elections.

Diaz launches new Spanish party. Spanish Labour Minister Yolande Diaz has launched the campaign of her new Sumar party after breaking away from the junior coalition Podemos party.


What we are reading

ChatGPT is making up fake Guardian articles. Here’s how we’re responding, writes Chris Moran for The Guardian.

US conservatives can’t see that Ukraine’s survival strengthens America’s hand in Asia, writes Janan Ganesh for the Financial Times.

The UN Could Have a Secret Legal Weapon to Fight Climate Change, writes Jedd D. Colgan and William T. Colgan for Foreign Policy.


The next week in politics

Activities will slowly re-start at EU institutions after the short Easter break.

The European Parliament will have its committee and political groups meetings, while the Council will hold the first meeting on 18 April.


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