Sunday, 16 January 2011


“Il Giornalismo e le Sfide del Cambiamento” (Journalism and the Challenge of Change) was the title of the 26th congress of the IFJ affiliate in Italy, the Federazione Nazionale della Stampa Italiana, which gathered last week in Bergamo. It brought together 312 delegates representing the 20 regional associations that make the FNSI. Speaking there on behalf of the IFJ, I was thrilled by the striking passion of delegates and the depth of debates.

And they have every reason to feel upbeat – last year the FNSI called a `demonstration to protest the increasing attacks by Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi against newspapers. It attracted 250,000 demonstrators, a rare feat that our unions elsewhere could never dream of achieving. The FNSI also took their fight to the European Parliament and forced a debate on pluralism which, in effect, was an unmistakable condemnation of Berlusconi. This was lost by the thinnest of margin. Last July the FNSI organised a highly successful Day of Silence where journalists across Italy refused to work in a massive protest against the Berlusconi ‘Wiretapping Bill'.

While congress delegates considered in details the massive changes that are impacting on their media, I did not observe any handwringing or panic. On the contrary, they debated and agreed a sober programme of work to defend and strengthen journalism and journalists. The curtain raiser was a major debate, widely reported in their national media, which attracted some of the biggest players in Italian media, including Carlo De Benedetti, president of the Espresso group and Piergaetano Marchetti, president of the RCS MediaGroup -- another major achievement.

Throughout their congress, delegates displayed a remarkable measure of unity and confidence in their leadership. In the elections, their General Secretary Franco Siddi was re-elected with a whopping majority (221 votes in favour, 4 votes to other candidates, 42 abstentions and 32 invalid votes). The newly National Council (FNSI board) met immediately at the end of congress and re-elected by 98-2 (with 5 abstentions) Roberto Natale as their next president.

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