Italy is investigating why so many Russians are being invited on state television

An Italian parliamentary committee has launched an investigation into “misinformation” on television amid a heated debate over the frequent appearance of Russian guests on news programs in the country during the war in Ukraine.

The Parliamentary Committee on Security of the Republic (Copasir), which oversees the intelligence services, said on Wednesday that it had summoned the heads of Italy’s state television network, the state security agency, and the communications oversight body.

The commission said it was investigating “foreign interference and disinformation activities … in particular concerning the Russia-Ukraine conflict”.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi has taken a hard line on Moscow since it invaded Ukraine on February 24th, but opinion polls show that Italy – unlike other European G7 countries (Britain, France, and Germany) – has little public support. to send weapons to Ukraine.

Italian public broadcaster RAI and its four main private channels regularly host Russian journalists on their talk shows to debate with Italian counterparts about the war, an approach that has heightened divisions in the country.

While some commentators say it is right to hear both sides in the conflict, others condemn giving airtime to what they call Russian “propagandists.”

The controversy escalated on Sunday when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov chose Italy’s private channel Rete 4 to give his first interview on a European television network since the invasion began.

Critics said the interviewer had failed to provoke or interrupt Lavrov enough. Some said the Russian minister should not have been interviewed at all. Draghi himself took part in the debate the next day, saying the interview was “not very good”.

Italy has no tradition of aggressive television interviews with politicians.

Some experts have begun refusing to take part in talk shows in protest of the space allowed for what they describe as Russian propaganda.

Natalie Tochi, head of the Italian Institute of International Relations, declined to take part in the show on Tuesday, as another guest was from the Russian Defense Ministry, saying she “does not want to be complicit in disinformation”.

On the other hand, Lucio Caracciolo, one of the most prominent geopolitical experts in Italy and the founder of Limes, a respected magazine for world affairs, continues to make daily appearances on talk shows on the private channel La7. Karacholo dismissed Copasir’s investigation as a “joke”, saying that “if we want to take it seriously, we will have to think that they want to create a Ministry of Truth”.

Moscow says the Western media has provided an overly one-sided account of the war.

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