Bids for Criticizing Berlusconi start at $250,000

Silvio Berlusconi loves to joke around.

He probably thought he was really funny today, too, when he criticized unspecified studies on press freedom that place Italy in a pretty low position. (I have reason to believe it’s Freedom House’s Map of Press Freedom, where Italy is the only western European country, alongside Northern Ireland, classified as “partly free.”)

“If there’s one thing we know, it’s that Italy has too much press freedom. That is an undisputable fact,” he said in between chuckles during an official press conference.

He loves press freedom and freedom of speech so much he’s making sure journalists stay free by suing them for enormous amounts of money.

It is an intimidation technique that Alexander Stille, once sued by Berlusconi, says has a deep effect on journalists.

“For each of these suits, you may affect the behavior of another 100 journalists,” Mr. Stille told the New York Times in late 2008.

Here are just some examples of his intimidation techniques:

The week before the regional elections last April, Berlusconi’s government barred any political analysis shows to be aired on TV.

In early September 2009 he sued left-wing newspaper l’Unità for 2 million euros, as well as editor Concita De Gregorio, journalists Natalia Lombardo and Federica Fantozzi, opinion writer Maria Luisa Oppo and writer Silvia Ballestra each for 200,000 euros for covering the sex scandal he was involved in last summer.

In the summer of 2009, Berlusconi sued Spain’s major newspaper, El Pais, for publishing photos of his Sardinia Villa where naked women roam around freely.

In 2002 he publicly stated that journalists Enzo Biagi and Michele Santoro, as well as satirist and TV host Daniele Luttazzi, should be kicked off public television… they were. Not satisfied of the purge, he sued Luttazzi and journalist Marco Travaglio for presenting on TV a book about Berlusconi’s alleged ties with the Mafia. Berlusconi lost both lawsuits.

The list is too long, so I’ll just make a bulleted list of journalists and publications sued by Berlusconi:

La Repubblica (1 million euros requested for continually publishing 10 questions about his relations with 18-year-old Noemi Letizia)
The Economist and journalist David Lane
Il Diario
Alexander Stille (sued by longtime business partner Fedele Confalonieri)
Le Nouvel Observateur

I might be leaving some out. If so, please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.

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