After all these years under state protection, I almost feel guilty for still being alive. It’s easier to say the satirists brought it on themselves than to look in the mirror and confront the image of our own inertia. Whatever I want to do, I let the bodyguards know, and they decide the best way to do it. The journalist and author, Roberto Saviano, no stranger to death threats from Italian organized crime, tweeted a picture with Al Bija circled in red. I had no idea where I was. The two bosses, Antonio Iovine and Francesco Bidognetti, were convicted at the end of the 12-year Spartacus trial. The places I knew before, and the places I’ve been since. Uffici Stampa Milano Ilaria Maggi (firstname.lastname@example.org) tel. I couldn’t go round looking at houses: two bulletproof cars and seven body guards don’t exactly make it easy to get around unnoticed. Given everything that’s happened, enduring this kind of criticism is not such a terrible price to pay. Santonastaso has since been given 11 years for mafia association, aiding and abetting and perjury but that got barely any coverage at all. I didn’t know the magazine’s editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, but I knew he was living under armed guard, like me. I would have loved a balcony, a terrace: I’ve longed for a terrace as I once longed for the chance to travel. Federico Del Prete, the trade unionist murdered at Casal di Principe in 2002, was pilloried with false accusations on the day of his funeral. I read court records, news reports, trial transcripts. © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies. The European Federation of Journalist (EFJ) joined its affiliates in condemning the lawsuit against journalists. After the event, they told me it would be too dangerous to go back to Naples on public transport, so they took me with them. I would have liked a bigger room, a lighter room. It’s the fear of being discredited. The media will have barely started covering my death than the nasty rumours will start. An international bestseller. For most of my waking hours I hate Gomorrah. As soon as a kid is killed in a fight, or a priest is stabbed while saying mass, rumours begin to buzz like flies. All rights reserved. Collaborating with various local and international newspapers on the issues, the journalist has also been critical towards current migration policy applied by current office of the Minister of Interior and the League party. If it was the last question in the interview, I’d go away with a bad taste in my mouth, feeling like I hadn’t come up to scratch. It has a terrace and you can see the sea from up there. I was living in Naples, but she was still in Caserta. In 2017, the Italian Minister of the Interior had already stated that he “assessed whether there was any risk” justifying the security measures for Saviano, “in order to see where the Italians’ money was going.”. Where I will stay, the places I’ll visit, the people I’ll be meeting. Then I have to wait for permission to travel – to find out if the country I want to visit considers me welcome. I wanted to tell the world what this war zone was like: the victims’ families tearing their clothes, the stink of piss from a man who knew he was going to die and couldn’t control his fear, people shot in the street because they looked like the intended victim. And every single one was dark. Small rooms, all of them, some of them minuscule. Nonetheless, this was the first conviction of its kind, so it was a historical moment of sorts. I don’t trust anyone any more. I have visited countries – sometimes places I’ve always longed to go to – and all I see is the inside of a hotel room and the skyline of a city through the darkened glass of a bulletproof car. Since I wrote Gomorrah, there’s a greater understanding of the mafia, and in Italy successive governments have been shamed into investing in fighting organised crime. Italian journalist and writer Roberto Saviano has been sued by the Minister of Interior Matteo Salvini on 20 June under allegations on defamation. I can’t afford to waste time thinking about the people who want to attack me. But I’m not afraid, Journalists are risking all to expose the Italian mafia. 0647497462 … There are new friends, new places, new routines, but there’s also a new Roberto Saviano. Ricardo Gutiérrez, General Secretary of the EFJ, stressed the far reaching impact of Salvini’s thread: “Taking away his police protection is like handing him over to organized crime. I managed to watch dawn break over the most beautiful bay in the world. I’m working on a revision of the criteria for the escorts that every day in Italy commit more than two thousand law enforcement workers.”. The plan was to drug her, make pornographic films of her, send them around the world, discredit her campaign for freedom of information. The only thing I can do is focus on my work, on my audience, who – almost more than my armed escort – protect me. I feel it’s happening already, that the people who say, “He’s lying, he’s plagiarising, he’s libelling us” will end up having more importance than my own research, my own attempts to investigate how things work. It’s the usual prisoner’s paranoia. I live in this permanent three-day time lapse, so I always feel like I’m late for everything. My bodyguards were there, and Rosy’s, as well as our lawyers and the defendants’ legal team. This is an intolerable intimidation for Saviano and all the other Italian journalists under escort.”, Building independent media to counter political interference, Turkey : organising journalists in the digital media, Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey, Transnational industrial relations in multinational companies, Advancing gender equality in media industries, Journalists’ network for media freedom in Macedonia, Building Strong Journalists Unions in Eastern Europe, are directed by an independent structure, the UCIS, said EFJ’s Italian affiliate Federatione Nazionale Della Stampa Italiana. People close to me tell me not to worry, that it’s just envy. But for others, it’s not like that. Perhaps Italians hadn’t forgotten, at least not those of us who write about the mafia. I was disappointed but nothing surprises me anymore. Wed 14 Jan 2015 06.00 GMT He said: “You know that they are going to make you pay for what you did in Casale [Casal di Principe], right?”, Less than a month after that, returning to Naples from a literary festival, I was met at the railway station by two carabinieri. When I’m there, it takes a few days to establish a rapport with the local police escort. The then-speaker of the Italian parliament was there with his bodyguards. But if they say, “We’ve heard it all before,” it’s a more subtle way of undermining me. After. It is alleged that Al Bija was part of at least one delegration to Italy in 2017, although La Stampa wrote that could have been under a false name. I’m afraid of getting close to someone and letting my guard down. I always try to make it clear: they’re not afraid of me, they’re afraid of my readers. I’ll never forget what the ex-husband of murdered Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya said the day after her death: “It’s better like this: better to die than to be discredited. The minister’s comments amount to a death threat. And somehow, they always find willing ears to hear ill of the dead. We had forgotten. I’m constantly accused of trying to make money out of the mafia, of insulting Naples, of making stuff up. I realised that I should have said, of course, that I’d do it all again tomorrow. In the end you’re scarred by it. The bosses got away with yet another attempt to intimidate journalists into silence, so I felt ambivalent at best. Easy enough until the landlady found out it was for me. Not long before she was killed, they tried to kidnap her. Everything is scheduled to the minute; nothing is left to chance. I haven’t lived anywhere for more than a few months in all that time. I loathe it. To get there before the family did, with their terrible grief-stricken cries. I got to know the messengers, the look-outs who worked for the clan. The lawsuit was a result of a Twitter thread about the reconsideration of the journalist’s police escort and Salvini’s migration policy, calling for reaction from the Minister to a recent incident where a refugee woman and a child were found drowned in the Mediterranean sea. Far-right Italian minister sues anti-mafia writer over 'underworld' tweet, Matteo Salvini threatens to remove Gomorrah author's police protection, Italy’s war on migrants makes me fear for my country’s future, Matteo Salvini: a political chameleon thriving on fears, Italian Catholic priests go to war with Salvini over immigration, Matteo Salvini backed by politician 'with links to mafia', Matteo Salvini is threatening me mafia-style. I was so young when I wrote Gomorrah, I didn’t have time to be corrupted or tainted, to compromise my ideals. It showed a photograph of me, with a pistol to my head, and the word “Condemned”. As one penitent former boss has said, the camorristi want to be VIPLs: very important persons at a local level; they want to be famous in their own territory, feared for their military power, but on a national or international level, they want to be anonymous. I hope this sentence may be the first step towards freedom for myself and other writers, currently living under armed guard, who may eventually be able to reclaim our lives. One bag for books, papers. If you pushed me, I’d say the perception of the problem has changed radically. Last modified on Sun 4 Mar 2018 12.49 GMT. My name is so often associated with the terms death and murder that they hardly register. A lot of what I’ve written in the last few years, this piece included, has been written in hotel rooms. This is not the first time that Salvini has threatened Saviano to take away his police protection. On May 29th, Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini published a video on Facebook in which he threatened the journalist Roberto Saviano with the withdrawal of his police protection from mafia. Roma Gabriella Gatto (email@example.com) tel. I’m always expecting people to let me down. The EFJ affiliate in Italy, the Federazione Nazionale della Stampa Italiana (FNSI), together with the Ordine nazionale dei giornalisti, condemned the “lawsuit of the government” stating, that it causes great concern on the rhetoric regarding the protection of journalists as well as a case of aggression against the freedom of expression. Probably a worse person. They must be protected. A huge audience. We can only choose how to play the role we are given. This life is shit – it’s hard to describe how bad it is. I can’t blame them. I’m still looking for a place of my own. I’m more scared of living my whole life like this than of dying. I do sometimes think about the pain, about what it would be like to die painfully. Whatever I would like my life to be, the fact is, I wrote Gomorrah, and I pay the price every day. In the video, Matteo Salvini sends a kiss to the camera, saying “A kiss to Saviano. I’m either at the Nobel academy having a debate on freedom of the press, or I’m inside a windowless room at a police barracks. The ones I lost, who drifted away because they found it too hard to stand by me and those I’ve found – hopefully – in the last few years. The more apparently civilised, calm and peaceful a place, the farther it is from the mafia and the more I feel safe there, the more they treat me like an unexploded bomb that could blow up in their faces at any moment. Before it was over, they and their lawyer were charged with issuing threats in the document that was read in court. 0271046.441 firstname.lastname@example.org tel. Having their exploits told to a wider audience than the local press was a major blow because it drew public attention to their illegal affairs. I got to know the workers in industries run by the Camorra. Responsabile comunicazione Monica Brognoli (email@example.com). I realised the dream of every writer, the dream most of my colleagues wouldn’t dare imagine. They usually move me to a new hotel after one night. The words of Minister Salvini on the advisability of armed protection to the writer Roberto Saviano from Campania are unacceptable and irresponsible.” said EFJ’s Italian affiliate Federatione Nazionale Della Stampa Italiana (FNSI), adding that Minister Salvini should leave this decision to the ones who are in charge. In the course of the historic “maxi-trial” known as Spartacus – in which 24 members of the Casalese clan were tried for murder, extortion, corruption of public officials and rigging elections – a lawyer for two of the Camorra bosses read aloud a document that threatened me and another journalist, Rosaria Capacchione, by claiming that it was only because of our reporting that they had been arrested. Roberto Saviano: Edward, so there’s no way to defend your privacy? If I responded, it would only make things worse. In Italy, and particularly in Naples, I mostly stay in carabiniere barracks, with the smell of my roommates’ boot polish; the noisy commentary from the football game on TV, the groans when they were called back on duty or the opposing team scored; Saturday, Sunday, deadly days. I told them they should leave. As we drove away in an armoured car, they said they had been assigned to me for my protection. There’s another fear, worse than anything else. Anna couldn’t have borne it.” I have been told that they had been planning to set her up. You can hear shouts outside, you can sense people moving around, you know it’s sunny, summer has begun. The carabinieri who were my bodyguards tried to help me find somewhere to rent, through their contacts. Italian journalist and writer Roberto Saviano has been sued by the Minister of Interior Matteo Salvini on 20 June under allegations on defamation. In Naples, it was impossible to find a home. If they said, “None of it’s true,” we would know they’re just mouthpieces for the mafia. •, Follow the Long Read on Twitter: @gdnlongread, Available for everyone, funded by readers, Matteo Salvini has been criticised by Roberto Saviano over his hardline migration policy, Roberto Saviano has escort to protect him from mafia, but has criticised interior minister, A wave of hatred has been whipped up, threatening the civil rights of all of us, says author Roberto Saviano, The far-right Italian interior minister has stoked immigration concerns to grab the spotlight. Before. Since then the same thing has happened many times, I wake up with a start in the night and don’t know where I am. At the beginning, when I told interviewers that if I had known what was coming, I would never have written the book, their faces would fall. It was like being a war reporter: two or three murders a day, arson attacks – firebombing people’s homes. 0271046.250 Mara Pecci (firstname.lastname@example.org) tel. When this case concluded in November last year, the bosses were acquitted, but their lawyer, Michele Santonastaso, was convicted of making “mafia-style threats”. There is a before and after for everything, including friendship. There is no shade, no in between. That’s home. These hotel rooms are dark, with windows you can’t open. L'Ufficio Stampa della Kuwait Petroleum Italia si affretta a esprimere "totale disappunto e dissenso" per la ricostruzione dei fatti che hanno portato all'arresto dei fratelli Cosentino e soprattutto dei due dirigenti della Q8. There were very few people I knew in court; when you live like I do everyone gets used to seeing you from afar, or just following your life on social media. People often ask me if I’m afraid the mafia will kill me. I think about people who, even though they were known targets, had no protection. ZeroZeroZero: la conferenza stampa con Roberto Saviano, Stefano Sollima, Adriano Chiaramida. In March 2008, two years after Gomorrah was published, the mafia escalated its threats against me. It’s happened to everyone who has reported crimes or told uncomfortable truths. Ten Italian journalists currently live under police protection after being threatened by the mafia, including Lirio Abbate, whose bodyguards found a bomb under his car after he wrote a book about Cosa Nostra boss Bernardo Provenzano. The reason they objected to it was because I told the truth about organised crime to such a massive audience. 0271046.374. Roberto Saviano with some of his seven armed guards. With the shooting in Paris, Europe has rediscovered that writing can be dangerous. I was struck by something Charbonnier said in 2012: “I’m not afraid of reprisals. If I’m in Italy I have to decide what I’m doing three days in advance. But I’ve become someone different than I imagined. If Gomorrah had been just another book read by a few thousand people, the Camorra wouldn’t have taken any notice. Freedom of expression is not a right we are granted in perpetuity – if we neglect it, it will wither like a plant you forget to water. I remember early on in my bulletproof life, waking up one night in the barracks, it was dark and I didn’t recognise anything. Most people have had to sell themselves at some time, it just happened that I didn’t. There’s a line from Truman Capote I often come back to: “More tears are shed for answered prayers than unanswered ones.” If I have a dream, it’s that words have the power to bring about change. After his death he was subject to a smear campaign accusing him of lewd behaviour and links to the Camorra. I’m often asked if I regret writing Gomorrah. They did it to Don Peppe Diana, the priest who was shot dead in Casal di Principe 1994 for preaching against the mafia and threatening to refuse to give the sacraments to Camorra members. Over that winter, the security detail was doubled after rumours emerged from prison that the Camorra was planning to kill me. The last time I was in Naples I stayed in a barracks that used to be a monastery. More than dying, I’m afraid that my life will never get back to normal. But everything else is gone: the chance of a normal life, the chance of a normal relationship. This process has been painful, I’ve found it difficult to come to terms with, until I accepted that none of us is in control of our own destiny. Once I finally found somewhere to live, as soon as people figured out where I was living, which street, which number, I would have to move. Those featureless, identical hotels that I’ve come to loathe. I pulled their stories together, the stories of my neighbourhood, and published a book called Gomorrah. And more focused on himself, because he’s become a symbol. That I have an audience guarantees my freedom, in spite of all the restrictions. People whose names nobody knows face threats alone and unprotected, every day of their lives. The deaths at Charlie Hebdo should make anyone who isn’t trying to change the world feel guilty. I was sitting in the courtroom in Naples when the verdict was delivered. Usually, I try to say the right thing. The mafia boss Salvatore Cantiello, watching a feature about me on the TV news in prison, reportedly said, “Keep talking because soon you won’t be talking ever again.”. I travel around the world, leaping from country to country as though it were a checker board, doing research for my projects, searching for any tattered remains of freedom. Matteo Salvini, minister of interior, deputy prime minister and the leader of the right-wing League party, has been receiving critics from local and international media following his policy on migration and refugees. My life has been poisoned. One with medicines, toothbrush, toothpaste and mobile phone chargers. Sometimes I look back at the watershed that divides my life before and after Gomorrah. Soon afterwards, I was invited to give an address at a gala to inaugurate the new school year in the town of Casal di Principe, home of the most powerful Camorra clan, with one of the highest murder rates in Italy. Trudging endlessly around the suburbs until I … But so much time has passed now I feel like I’ve earned the right to share my regrets, and admit, I miss the time I was a free man. To tell true stories with the rigour of a journalist and the literary style of a novelist. But generally speaking, surprising as it may seem, I don’t think about dying all that much. One for shirts and jackets. Light and dark. That’s it. To me, the fact that two mafia bosses were acquitted while their lawyer was convicted for mafia-related crime seemed absurd. “Escorts are allocated after careful assessments by security forces against real threats. This is what drags me down: the fear that I will be discredited somehow, that it’ll creep up on me and I won’t be able to defend myself, or my writing. All in all, mine is a privileged existence. A few days later, someone followed me on the street in Naples and got on the bus behind me. Circumstances have changed him; he’s different from the person he was before, and from the friends he had then. Doing anything spontaneous, just because I feel like it, would be ridiculously complicated. At the beginning, there’s a sense that I’m an inconvenience, a burden, a problem to manage, especially when there’s a public event. I say, “As a man, yes, as a writer, no.” But that’s not the real answer. Their worst fear is to be under the spotlight. After eight years under armed guard, threats against my life barely make the news. They did it to Giovanni Falcone, the anti-mafia magistrate killed by Cosa Nostra in 1992; they did it to the journalist Pippo Fava. Living with bodyguards changed everything; it’s so complicated trying to work with an armed escort in tow. It’s been more than eight years since I took a train, or rode a Vespa, took a stroll or went out for a beer. More withdrawn, detached, because he’s constantly under attack. Before. Since 2006 my life has been a continual search for somewhere to live, somewhere to write. As soon as they saw me it would be, “I can’t, I’m sorry, I’ve got children,” or “I can’t, I’ve just rented it to someone else.” And back I went to the barracks. They can’t pretend they don’t know what’s going on any more, and public opinion won’t let them off the hook. I was following the battle for dominance between Secondigliano bosses the Di Lauro clan and a splinter group known as the Spaniards because the leader had moved the centre of their operations to Spain, where he lived in hiding. There are other things that scare me. Something about it touched a nerve. But I had no choice in the matter, I couldn’t make a decision about where I was going to live. If I want to travel abroad, I have to inform the government security department weeks or even months in advance, exactly where I am going and what my schedule will be. I exist inside four walls, and the only alternative is making public appearances. My very public profile exposes me to vicious criticism, but it also protects me. Only the two bosses were not in court, but watching proceedings on video links from prison. My luggage: one bag for socks, pants, T-shirts and trousers. It really is. It’s a way of turning down the volume of what I’m saying. I’m afraid of many things, but dying isn’t one of them. Saviano named him “a buffon” and “minister of the underworld”. It became an instant bestseller – so many people bought it that the Camorra couldn’t ignore it. As a young writer growing up in Caserta, a suburb of Naples, I felt myself getting more and more angry. I realise most people won’t believe me, but it’s actually true. I think about the huge number of people in Italy who live like me, under state-provided armed guard: 585 of us. Behind us was a bank of television news cameras and journalists. In fact, this threat may not come true, as the escorts of high-risk individuals are directed by an independent structure, the UCIS (Ufficio centrale interforze per la sicurezza personale), over which the Italian Minister of the Interior has no direct power of intervention. Most countries don’t dare let me out for a short walk, not even with the armed guards they’ve assigned to me. And the wheel turns. Journalist Roberto Saviano has been working on investigations of organized crime and the Camorra crime syndicate in the region of Campania, publishing his investigation in a book entitled “Gomorra” (2006). The following day the local paper denounced my intervention as an insult to the Camorra. I singled out the Camorra bosses from the stage, naming them publicly, which local people had been too intimidated to do. There were foreign journalists in court but I’m not sure they understood the verdict. Meanwhile, I live in these stripped back, monastic spaces, every move controlled. Trudging endlessly around the suburbs until I got wind of a story, then a frantic drive across town on my Vespa to get to the crime scene first, to see the body before it was moved. I realised the dream of every writer – an international bestseller. There was a war going on between two mafia clans for control of the territory, and violence between them spilled into the streets. I’ve got no children, I haven’t got a wife, I don’t own a car, I’ve got no debts. It was intensely painful to me. Naples has become off-limits to me, a place I can only visit in my memories. I was working on this article in New York when I heard the news about Charlie Hebdo. But my life has been poisoned. I am often asked why the Camorra, this great, powerful criminal organisation, is afraid of me. Pompous as it may sound, I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.” For a lot of people, writing is just a job you do, there are no consequences. I live in police barracks or anonymous hotel rooms, and rarely spend more than a few nights in the same place. And this is unforgivable. “We know all this, it’s already been written about,” that’s one of the things they say. That I would sacrifice everything, all over again. The media circus must keep moving. “No,” I say, and I stop there. It’s been more than eight years since I took a train, or rode a Vespa, took a stroll or went out for a beer. For the last eight years, I have travelled everywhere with seven trained bodyguards in two bullet-proof cars. Saviano has been under constant police protection since 2006, after he published the book “Gommora”, denouncing the practices of the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia. Photograph: Stefania D'Alessandro/Getty Images My life, before and after. It was incredible that something like that could be going on in the middle of Europe. I have lived in so many houses, so many different rooms. I’m suffocated by lies, accusations, defamation, endless crap. Due to the numerous death threats the journalist received following his work, Saviano is under regular police protection. And the laptop. I’d ride my Vespa from crime scenes to courtrooms to prisons. It’s happened to everyone who has ever been killed for what they believe in. In spite of everything that’s happened to me, my prayer has been answered. I knew about his situation and the risks he was taking. To ask for favours and be in someone’s debt. On May 29th, Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini published a video on Facebook in which he threatened the journalist Roberto Saviano with the withdrawal of his police protection from mafia. I’m attacked not just by the Camorra, but also by parts of civil society and even by journalists who are ashamed that they’ve never spoken out against the mafia, and that their silence makes them complicit. Days spent in the empty belly of a whale. With this announcement, the clan sent a clear message: if they were found guilty, we would become targets. Not long after the book came out in 2006, someone left a leaflet in my mother’s postbox. I think about the huge number of people in Italy who live like me, under state-provided armed guard: 585 of us. This is the power of the non‑fiction novel, the kind of book I’ve tried to write. Building independent media to counter political interference, Turkey : organising journalists in the digital media, Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey, Transnational industrial relations in multinational companies, Advancing gender equality in media industries, Journalists’ network for media freedom in Macedonia, Building Strong Journalists Unions in Eastern Europe.
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