Politico: Von der Leyen blocks report criticizing Italy for media freedoms

Ursula von der Leyen Photo: EPA

As she seeks support from Rome for a second term at the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen is trying to slow down an official EU report criticizing Italy for violating media freedoms, Politico reports.

As several officials told Politico, the European Commission's investigation points to a crackdown on media freedom in Italy since far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni took power in 2022, MIA reports.

The annual report on respect for the rule of law in EU member states was expected to be approved on July 3, but this may be delayed until a new Commission president is named, two officials told the Brussels portal.

The delay in the report is unusual and von der Leyen risks the move being seen as politically motivated, given that she is currently seeking the support of EU leaders such as Maloney to secure a second five-year term as Commission chief.

Media associations have warned that government interference and lawsuits against journalists have become more common in Italy over the past two years. In last year's rule of law report, the commission had already criticized Italy, saying its defamation law was increasingly being used to persecute journalists.

"There is a visible willingness to block issues related to Italy and the rule of law," said one Commission official who, like others, pointed to von der Leyen's bid to be re-elected as EC president.

Officials who spoke to Politico on condition of anonymity say the president's office asked the commission's general secretariat to delay the release of the report.

Officials also said von der Leyen's attempts to avoid open criticism of Italy met with disapproval in the Commission.

As pointed out, such interference would be harmful because Ursula von der Leyen, as well as the Commission services, should not interfere in the process of her election for a second term.

Politico reports that the report is now expected to be considered after EU leaders endorse a new Commission president, which means mid-July at the earliest, although that could take as long as September.

The report on the rule of law is still on the agenda for July 3 in the Commission's plans, but officials say the date will soon be moved.

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