Giuseppe D’Avanzo, Journalist Who Uncovered Italian Role in Nigergate, Dies at 58
I had the fortune of meeting D’Avanzo once in late 2006, shortly after the height of what is known in Italy as “Nigergate,” a scandal that put the country right in the middle of what the United States were going through at the time with the so-called “Plamegate.”
D’Avanzo, alongside Repubblica colleague Carlo Bonini, was able to dig through the thick and intricate web of lies and deceitful acts the Italian government of Berlusconi accomplished to help out George W. Bush gather information for his campaign to start a war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
D’Avanzo simply did what all journalists should do: He followed the facts.
What he found out was that a robbery at the Niger embassy in Rome on New Year’s of 2001 led to the disappearance of official stamps and letterheads… and that led to many other suspicious details.
A few months later a document appeared among the ones that were supposed to nail the case against Saddam Hussein. It was a document establishing a connection between Iraq and Niger, which exports uranium — which is used to produce nuclear energy.
This is where former ambassador Joseph Wilson steps in, called by the officials in Washington to find out if such claims were true. He claimed they weren’t in a NewYork Times editorial in 2003, and they made him pay for that.
But the original (fake) document was so clumsily put together that even an apprentice secret agent would have unmasked its flaws. The Italian secret services tried to push it through anyways.
D’Avanzo and Bonini connected the dots and quickly figured out the grand scheme of lies behind the scandal.
In 2006, when I met D’Avanzo in an outdoor café in Rome, he was still fuming over how the rest of the Italian media had dealt with the facts that he and Bonini had brought to the public.
In short, Repubblica (the paper the two journalists worked for and that had invested heavily in the investigation) found itself on its own, with no support from other media. TV all but ignored the whole scandal, while other national newspapers either talked of the affair in a hushed voice or outright attacked Repubblica and D’Avanzo. Guess whose papers were attacking Repubblica? You guessed it: The Berlusconi-owned papers, Il Giornale (owned by Berlusconi’s brother, Paolo) and Il Foglio (owned in part by his former wife Veronica Lario).
Back then I was writing my thesis on the whole Nigergate scandal, trying to analyze this absurd divisiveness between papers, with some not pursuing truth but clearly being used as verbal weapons to attack their journalistic rivals. There was no attempt (except from Il Corriere della Sera at the very beginning) of combining investigative efforts to get the story straight.
In other words, no one seemed to care about the facts.
No one except for Bonini and D’Avanzo, that is.
D’Avanzo will surely be missed. His journalistic courage will be missed, as well.