Italy: AIE Supports Antonio Scurati in Liberation Day Controversy

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Italian publishers are standing up for author Antonio Scurati, whose Liberation Day statement reportedly was canceled by RAI.

A production still shot from ‘M. Il figlio del secolo,an account of the rise of Benito Mussolini based on Antonio Scurati’s work and produced as a television series with Lorenzo Mieli, CEO of FremantleMedia Italia, and Sky Studios. Image: Andrea Pirrello for Sky Studios Ltd.

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Cipolletta: ‘A Country That Is Strong in Its Democracy’
In Italy, the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE) has come out firmly on the side of the Premio Stregga-winning author Antonio Scurati, who has said that the state broadcaster RAI is exercising censorship in its refusal to broadcast a talk-show appearance described as anti-fascist.

Innocenzo Cipolletta

In a statement that leaves no doubt about the position of the Italian publishers’ association, the organization’s president, Innocenza Cipolletta has told the news media, “The Italian Publishers Association stands alongside publishers in reiterating that freedom of expression is at the heart of democracy and is a mandatory guiding principle for the entire world of books.

“A country that is strong in its democracy should never fear the opinions of writers, whatever they may be.”

Scurati was to have spoken Saturday (April 20) on RAI3’s show Chesarà  to commemorate Thursday’s (April 25) holiday, which is observed as Liberation Day in Italy to mark the 1945 victory of the Italian resistance against Germany’s Nazi/Fascist state, the Italian Social Republic.  After Scurati, en route to the studio, reportedly received a message saying that his appearance had been canceled for “editorial reasons,” the show’s host Serena Bortone read Scurati ‘s prepared monologue, in full.

In some media accounts in Italy, such as that from Antonio Di Costanzo at La Repubblica, the state broadcaster is being called “the Melonian RAI,” a reference to the conservative Giorgia Meloni government. Nick Vivarelli in the United States-based media-news medium Variety.

Vivarelli writes that the prime minister, Meloni, is part of Scurati’s monologue. The author, Vivarelli writes, “In the monologue, Scurati claims that Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni, whose Brothers of Italy party has neo-fascist roots, has ‘stubbornly stuck to the ideological line of her neo-fascist culture of origin: she distanced herself from the indefensible brutalities perpetrated by the regime (the persecution of the Jews) without ever repudiating the fascist experience as a whole.'”

Antonio Scurati

RAI’s chief, Paolo Corsini, is reported to have denied that the monologue was taken out of the show’s rundown as an act of censorship. And the news agency ANSA writes that Meloni quoted Scurati’s monologue on her Facebook page—”so that Italian people can freely judge its content” and wrote that “she would never ask for censorship because she has been ‘ostracized and censored’ by RAI in the past.

But opposition parties are having none of it and are demanding that Meloni make a “clear stance on anti-Fascism,” critics maintaining that Meloni has never definitively disavowed perceived fascist links of her far-right party. Indeed, as Alice Ritchie is writing at Barron’s today (April 24), RAI has been alleged to be hiring people close to the Meloni government, detractors calling it “the most right-wing since World War II” and nicknaming the media network, Telemeloni.”

RAI’s director-general is promising an investigation into the cancellation of Scurati’s appearance but claiming that allegations of censorship at the network are “completely baseless.”

Scurati: ‘I Don’t Want To Play the Victim’

On Sunday (21 April), Ritchie writes, Scurati was in Naples to read his controversial monologue to a live audience as outrages spreads through Italy and many markets of world publishing at the situation. La Repubblica‘s Di Constanzo writes that the Neapolitan reception for Scurati and his monologue was “thunderous applause” and “a standing ovation for him in the honor courtyard of the Royal Palace. Calls of “Long live anti-fascist Italy” were heard, per Di Constanzo, both from Scurati and from voices in the crowd, the author conceding that he fears violent reprisals at this point: “I don’t want to play the victim.”

Much news comes these days from the United States about book bannings and other efforts to suppress the “trinity of freedoms”—as the International Publishers Association (IPA) refers to the freedoms to (1) publish, (2) read, and (3) express oneself. At Publishing Perspectives, we’ve reported on incidents in other markets, as well, such as the French market, where the interior ministry has moved against a book on male sexuality for teen readers from Thierry Magnier.

Accusations of censorship have surfaced in recent months in nations from Brazil to Mexico and beyond. Experts such as Kristenn Einarsson, who leads the IPA’s Freedom to Publish committee and is the founding CEO of Norway’s World Expression Forum, WEXFO, spoke in Bologna earlier this  month about the rash of self-censorship seen in markets in which rightist efforts to control and suppress literature are afoot.

“A country that is strong in its democracy should never fear the opinions of writers, whatever they may be.”Innocenzo Cipolletta, AIE

The Italian market, of course, is Frankfurter Buchmesse‘s (October 16 to 20) guest of honor market, with a major effort to be announced later this spring about the Guest of Honor Italy programming. In such a culture that prides itself on independent thinking and the protection of democratic dynamics of expression and publishing, the condemnation of the RAI’s action from the AIE’s Cipolletta is not only predictably swift and unequivocal but is being backed up by similar statements from such organizations as the union of RAI journalists, accusing managers, writes Barron’s Ritchie, “of trying to ‘silence’ Scurati and of a wider ‘suffocating control system that is damaging RAI, its employees , and all citizens.'”

Scurati’s M. Son of the Century on fascism in Italy was published in Anne Milano Appel’s English translation by HarperCollins on April 5. The book depicts the development of fascism through the mind of Mussolini and, according to the publisher, “is a chilling reminder that the past is never gone, and that it holds urgent lessons for us today.”

M. Il figlio del secolo is based on Scurati’s work and produced as a television series with Lorenzo Mieli, CEO of FremantleMedia Italia, and Sky Studios Ltd.

And at CounterPunch.org, Masturah Alatas’ translation to English of Scurati’s “Liberation Day Monologue” and Giorgia Meloni’s response has been posted here.

A production still shot from the television series ‘M. Il figlio del secolo,’ based on Antonio Scurati’s work on the rise of Benito Mussolini. Image: Andrea Pirrello for Sky Studios Ltd.

A Programming Note: WEXFO 2024

On May 27, the first day of the two-day World Expression Forum (WEXFO) in Lillehammer, Publishing Perspectives will moderate an afternoon-length publishing-specific program titled Access to Information, Books, and Ideas: How to Advance the Freedom to Read.

Publishing Perspectives will moderate this event, with documentation to follow, in which speakers will explore how “politicians must look at the funding to support reading, not as funding something ‘nice to have,’ but as a pure necessity in the fight to uphold our democracies.”

Among the most serious conference-setting examinations of the gathering pressure on publishing to date, this event will bring together speakers including:

Speakers in the special May 27 focus on advancing the freedom to read are, on the top row from left, Miha Kovač; Anne Mangen; Even Aleksander Hagen; and Karine Pansa. On the lower row from left are Tora Åsling; Mariann Schjeide; and Laurie Halse Anderson

Ticketing information and other details about the 2024 WEXFO, May 27 and 28, is here.


More from Publishing Perspectives onthe Italian book market is hereMore from Publishing Perspectives on issues of the freedom to publish and freedom of expression is here, more on the Prix Voltaire is here, and on the International Publishers Association is here. More on the World Expression Forum, WEXFO, is here, and more on the European and International Booksellers Federation is here. 

Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner of the International Publishers Association.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.