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Berlusconi cuts stake in television company

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 15 April 2005 IFJ media release:

IFJ Welcomes "First Step" and Calls On Berlusconi to Quit Italian TV Market

The International Federation of Journalists today welcomed the decision by Silvio Berlusconi to cut his stake in the Italian private television company Mediaset, but said that it did not go far enough and failed to eliminate the conflict of interest caused by his commercial television holdings and his role as Italian PM.

"We welcome this step because it recognizes that his position as media owner and prime minister is untenable", said Aidan White, the General Secretary of the IFJ. "But it is not enough. In reality his family's hands remain on the controls of Italians' biggest private television operator while he still exercises undue influence over the country's public broadcasting system".

The IFJ was responding to the news that, following a setback for his party in recent Italian regional elections, Berlusconi's company Fininvest was reducing its stake in Mediaset from 50.9% to 34.3 % to try to answer critics over his conflict of interests.

"But his company will remain by far the largest single shareholder, so the idea that this is giving up control is entirely theoretical", said White. "It is only a first step. To be convincing, Berlusconi has to quit the commercial television market. It will take more than cosmetic changes to give credibility to the idea that he really intends to end the conflict of interest".

In Bilbao two weeks ago, the Annual Meeting of the regional group of the IFJ, the European Federation of Journalists, which represents more that 260,000 journalists including members of the Federazione Nazionale della Stampa Italiana, agreed to campaign vigorously in defence of quality broadcasting across Europe and pledged to support journalists in Italy who are demanding reforms to defend independent journalism at the public broadcaster RAI.

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries.

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