Chaotic scenes unfolded on Italian television over the weekend when a prominent journalist accused a colleague of propagandising on behalf of Vladimir Putin.
Alessandro Sallusti walked out mid-way through a live show on Sunday, but not before unleashing a scathing tirade against fellow journalist Massimo Giletti – who was reporting live from Moscow as a correspondent at the time.
Sallusti said he had taken issue with Giletti’s allegedly timid attempt to hold the Kremlin to account, rebuking him live on television as he stood next to Putin’s propaganda-in-chief and Russia1 TV host Vladimir Solovyov.
Sallusti, a veteran editor of Italian centre-right newspaper Libero, slammed Giletti for interviewing Solovyov and Russia’s notorious Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, saying he was ‘witnessing total servility to the worst kind of propaganda.’
He said the Grand Kremlin Palace was ‘full of sh**’ and was behind some of the worst atrocities of 20th and 21st centuries were orchestrated, and accused Giletti of not having the courage to tell his hosts of that fact.
Alessandro Sallusti, a veteran editor of Italian centre-right newspaper Libero, unleashed a scathing tirade against fellow journalist Massimo Giletti – who was reporting live from Moscow as a correspondent. He accused him of propagandising for Vladimir Putin
Pictured: Italian journalist Massimo Giletti (centre) is seen along-side Putin’s propaganda-in-chief Vladimir Solovyov (right) on a balcony overlooking Moscow’s Red Square
‘Massimo when I heard that you were going to Moscow I felt very proud of knowing you,’ Sallusti told Giletti on the Italian TV show Non è l’Arena, via video link.
‘Initially, I thought you were going to address Russian viewers rather than Italian viewers, then I understood that this wasn’t the case.
‘I imagined you were going to speak with Putin or a top official and you were going to make us proud of our free press,’ Sallusti said.
‘Instead, as [was] said more politely by Myrta [Merlino, another colleague], I am witnessing total servilism to the worst possible kind of propaganda.
‘That also employs “useful idiots”. For example at the beginning of this program, Cacciari spoke about the prestige of the Kremlin,’ the journalist continued, as the camera cut to Giletti and Solovyov, overlooking Moscow’s Red Square.
‘The palace behind you [the Kremlin], you should remind our viewers that is where the worst crimes against humanity of the 20th and 21st centuries were organized. That palace is full of sh**.
‘You should have the courage to say to your hosts that the palace behind you is a palace full of sh**,’ he raged.
‘It makes me upset to see a journalist I respect be called “child” and “incompetent” by an idiot [Maria Zakharova] who doesn’t know what she’s talking about, because we have freedom, and we defend it.
‘I will not be a fig-leaf for these two idiots [literally: testicles] next to you. Thus, I decide to leave, I refuse my remuneration, and I end my participation in this farce. Thank you,’ he concluded, before ending the video call.
Sallusti said he had taken issue with Giletti’s allegedly timid attempt to hold the Kremlin to account, rebuking him live on television as he stood next to Putin’s propaganda-in-chief and Russia1 TV host Vladimir Solovyov (pictured)
Sallusti also slammed Giletti for interviewing Russia’s notorious Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova (pictured) saying he was ‘witnessing total servility to the worst kind of propaganda’
According to Newsweek, Giletti reportedly fell ill and also dropped out of the live show in Moscow on Italy’s La7 channel after he was chastised by Sallusti. He appeared again later from an indoor location, Newsweek said.
The news show, which was shared widely across social media, was heavily criticised for hosting part of its prime-time programme in Moscow, giving ample air time to allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Giletti’s interview with Maria Zakharova in particular was called out after the spokeswoman repeated the Kremlin’s justification for its invasion of Ukraine, which was ordered by Putin on February 24.
Since the start of its invasion, which it calls a ‘special military operation’, Russia has repeatedly said it aims to clear Ukraine of ‘Nazis’.
Kyiv and its Western backers say such claims are fiction and that Ukraine is fighting for its survival against an imperial-style land grab.
After the show, Italy summoned Russia’s ambassador on Monday to protest criticism from Moscow of coverage by the Italian media of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Italian foreign ministry said in a statement it ‘rejected insinuations concerning the alleged involvement of our country’s media in an anti-Russian campaign’.
Alessandro Sallusti is a veteran editor of the Italian centre-right newspaper Libero
Pictured: The Italian news channel’s studio is seen on Sunday, as Alessandro Sallusti (left) chastised fellow journalist Massimo Giletti (centre, in the tie) who was reporting from Moscow
It added that it ‘firmly rejected accusations of amorality’ levelled at certain unnamed Italian officials and journalists by the Russian foreign ministry.
The Russian embassy in Rome posted a statement on Facebook saying Ambassador Sergey Razov had repudiated the criticism during his meeting with the secretary general of Italy’s foreign ministry.
‘He pointed out that the propaganda line that is dominating in the Italian media can hardly be qualified otherwise than as hostile,’ the statement said.
‘He called for moderation and balance, traditional for Italian foreign policy, in the interest of maintaining positive relations and cooperation between the Russian and Italian peoples in the long term.’
Russia’s denunciation of Italian media coverage runs in the face of censure within Italy itself of perceived pro-Russian bias by some influential television news shows.
An Italian parliamentary panel last month opened an investigation into allegations of ‘disinformation’ on television following the frequent appearance of Russian guests on the country’s news programmes during the war in Ukraine.
The Parliamentary Committee for the Security of the Republic (Copasir), which oversees the intelligence services, said it was looking into ‘foreign interference and disinformation activity’ in the coverage of the conflict, now in its third month.