Italian populist leader calls journalists “fabricators of fake news’’

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The leader of Italy’s populist, euro sceptic 5-Star Movement (M5S), Beppe Grillo, said on Tuesday that “journalists are in the business of manufacturing false news.’’

He added that their work should be judged by a randomly chosen popular jury.

“Newspapers and TV news are the prime fabricators of fake news with the purpose of helping those in power to maintain their position’’, Grillo said.

The statement by the founder, leader, and self-appointed “guarantor’’ of the M5S prompted private TG La7 TV news director Enrico Mentana to say he will sue the comedian in court.

“While we wait for a popular jury, I suggest Grillo get himself a lawyer,’’ Mentana wrote on Facebook, calling Grillo’s allegations “an irredeemable offence’’.

The comedian’s attack on the media came as M5S rank and file voted on Grillo’s proposed new internal code of ethics, which takes a more lenient stance on party members involved in investigations.

Critics of the comedian quickly dubbed the new code a “save-Raggi’’ measure after Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi, whose right-hand man Raffaele Marra was arrested in December on suspicion of taking bribes from a real estate developer.

Raggi is widely believed to be next in line for investigation after a December 21 finding by Italy’s National Anti-corruption Authority (ANAC) that Marra had a conflict of interests in the promotion of his brother, Renato Marra, from deputy traffic police chief to city tourism department head.

If Raggi comes under investigation, under current M5S rules she would have to step down or at least suspend herself.

However her administration is seen as a test case for the M5S’s ability to lead the country, and a failure in Rome could spell doom for its government ambitions.

The M5S is Italy’s second-largest party after Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni’s center-left, pro-EU Democratic Party (PD), and claims that unlike Italy’s traditional parties it is untainted by corruption and cronyism.

Online voting on Grillo’s new ethics code ends at 7 pm (dpa/NAN)

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