A controversial TV program purporting to disclose rampant drug use among Italy’s top politicians was pulled from the airwaves Tuesday night, igniting a political debate pitting the public’s right to know against politicians’ right to privacy.
Producers of “Le Iene” (The Hyenas), which airs on Silvio Berlusconi’s Italia Uno channel, announced before the show’s scheduled airing Tuesday night that they had secretly tested 50 pols for drug use and 16 came up positive, 12 for cannabis and four for cocaine.
The results were obtained in dubious fashion. A reporter, claiming to be from the fictitious Fox TV, approached 50 MPs and asked them about the 2007 draft budget. During the interview, an assistant offered to wipe their brow. The cells collected were tested for drug residue.
Pierferdinando Casini, former president of the lower house of Parliament, told reporters, “The value of this experiment is precisely zero,” before adding drug use is not a joking matter.
With the veracity in question, the report still became a national news event, with politicians from both sides demanding the transmission be killed before it aired. The producers vowed not to out the suspected abusers. Still, the government’s privacy authority late on Tuesday decided to scrap the show, triggering a fresh debate.
On popular talkshow “Porta a Porta” Tuesday night, Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of the Italian dictator and member of European Parliament, called the decision to pull the program “a disgrace” and proof the country is governed by “an illiberal regime.”