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Italian author accuses state broadcaster of censorship of antifascist monologue


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A high-profile Italian author has accused Rai of censorship after his antifascist monologue was abruptly stopped from being aired, in what he called the “definitive demonstration” of alleged attempts by Giorgia Meloni’s government to wield its power over the state broadcaster.

Antonio Scurati was due to read the monologue marking the 25 April national holiday, which celebrates Italy’s liberation from fascism, on the Rai 3 talkshow Chesarà on Saturday night.

But as he prepared to travel to Rome, he received a note from Rai telling him his appearance had been cancelled “for editorial reasons”.

Scurati is well known in Italy for his books about the dictator Benito Mussolini and the fascist period. The cancellation of his monologue provoked fierce reaction from Rai journalists, fellow authors and opposition leaders.

His speech referenced Giacomo Matteotti, a political opponent of Mussolini who was murdered by fascist hitmen in 1924, and other massacres of the regime. It also contained a paragraph criticising Italy’s “post-fascist” leaders for not “repudiating their neo-fascist past”.

“Undoubtedly, this is what infuriated them,” Scurati told the Guardian. “And also because of what I represent and maintain in my books … [that] there is a continuity between the fascism of Mussolini and the populist nationalists in Europe.”

The Rai director Paolo Corsini denied that the monologue had been censored, telling the Italian media that an investigation “of an economic and contractual nature” was under way, while implying that the speech was cancelled because of the “higher-than-expected” fee sought by Scurati.

Scurati said his fee had been agreed and the contract signed before the monologue was due to be broadcast. “The fee was perfectly in line with those paid to authors … It was the same as in the past, when there were no issues.”

In solidarity, Serena Bortone, who presents Chesarà, read out the monologue on the show. It has also been published in full by several Italian newspapers and websites.

Meloni, whose Brothers of Italy party has neo-fascist origins, came to power in October 2022 with a coalition including the far-right League and the late Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

During the election campaign, Meloni said the rightwing parties had “handed fascism over to history for decades now”. However, Scurati claimed in his monologue that when forced to address fascism at historical anniversaries, Meloni has “obstinately stuck to the ideological line of her neo-fascist culture of origin”, for example by blaming the Mussolini regime’s persecution of the Jews and other massacres on Nazi Germany alone.

Meloni responded by publishing the speech on her Facebook page, while attacking Scurati and accusing the left of “shouting at the regime”.

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“Rai responded by simply refusing to pay €1,800 (the monthly salary of many employees) for a minute of monologue,” she said. “I don’t know what the truth is, but I will happily publish the text of the monologue (which I hope I don’t have to pay for) for two reasons: 1) Those who have always been ostracised and censored by the public service will never ask for anyone to be censored. Not even those who think their propaganda against the government should be paid for with citizens’ money. 2) Because Italians can freely judge its content.”

Since coming to power, the Meloni government has been accused of increasingly exerting its power over Rai while edging out managers or TV hosts with leftwing views. The European Commission was last week urged to investigate the government’s alleged attempts to turn the broadcaster into a “megaphone” for the ruling parties before the European elections.

Meloni’s administration has also been accused of trying to influence other areas of the press and targeting journalists with legal action who criticise the government. A Brothers of Italy politician recently proposed toughening penalties for defamation, including jail terms of two to three years.

Elly Schlein, the leader of the centre-left Democratic party, said: “The Scurati case is serious; Rai is the megaphone for the government.” Carlo Calenda, the leader of the centrist Azione party, said: “Silencing a writer for saying unpleasant things about the government is simply unacceptable.”

Scurati said he has received solidarity from many authors and journalists who were otherwise afraid to speak out against the government.

“This episode is the definitive demonstration, as it has finally aroused the revolt of other writers, intellectuals and journalists who until now kept quiet,” he said. “This government launches violent personal attacks against you for speaking out, in my case [that] I asked for too much money.”

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