Viva Zapatero

The result in Italy's general election is welcome, but the slim margin of victory is worriesome. In the 10 years prior to Berlusconi's 6 years in office there were 6 changes in Prime Minister, it would be disasterous if that pattern were to resume.

The best thing that Prodi could do for Italy, and for Europe, is follow Zapatero of Spain's lead and push through media ownership reforms as his first order of business. He would also do well to strengthen freedom of speech protection laws.

I had the good fortune of seeing the documentary Viva Zapatero! at Sundance this year, with the director, Sabina Guzzanti, in attendence. The systematic repression of those criticising the government in the media in Italy is an embarrassment to the European Union.

Particularly upsetting is the government's success in shutting down Guzzanti's satirical television show after only one episode, which had aired to great ratings and critical acclaim. When interviewed by Guzzanti many of the politicians claim to 'not get' the satirical nature of the show, criticising it as simply not funny. This is the country that gave us Dario Fo. Comparisons between Berlusconi and Mussolini may be a stretch, but in a truly democratic country they would be allowed.

Having grown up in Britain, during the Thatcher era, and now having lived through Bush II in the US for 5 years, it's painfully clear to me that satire is an incredibly important creative outlet of frustration at government policy and incompetence. Spitting Image, Rory Bremner, The Daily Show and lately The Colbert Report have been willing to speak truth to power. That this entire genre is effectively forbidden in Italy shows that their democracy has a lot of growing up to do.

Posted by Gregor in European Union Politics at April 12, 2006 06:23 PM