The thorn in Silvio's side: Marco Travaglio has made a career out of exposing the Italian PM

He is even founding a newspaper based on The Independent to report on him.

For politicians everywhere, if you get hammered in two consecutive rounds of elections, you've only yourself to blame. Or at least, the opposition – for having done its job well.

But in Italy, the reverse is true. As a result, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi held the media solely responsible for his defeat in last month's local elections (when he suffered a major setback in some 90 Italian cities, almost losing the right-wing stronghold Milan to a communist lawyer and Naples to a former prosecutor).

In particular, Berlusconi blamed a couple of journalists. One of them is Marco Travaglio, who has been a thorn in the premier's side for more than a decade.

Travaglio has a nose for all sorts of political and judicial intrigues, even though they are never particularly hard to find in Italy.

In September 2009 he founded a newspaper modelled on The Independent, to provide a medium for his regular criticism of the Italian establishment.

He was in London in June to chair a debate about Berlusconi's approach to politics and the media. The debate, "Italians are better than their Prime Minister", was organised by London Metropolitan University and Il Fatto Quotidiano (The Daily Fact) Travaglio's paper, which shifts 150,000 copies per day, a big deal in a country where the top paper, Il Corriere della Sera, sells around 480,000 copies every day.

With sales figures on the up and a net profit of €9m for 2010, the paper has built its success on Italian scepticism towards traditional media outputs, which are regarded as biased and unreliable.

Travaglio's speech outlined his approach to the issue: "In Italy, a journalist who finds a news story spends more time trying to convince his editor to publish it than in finding it. Our paper was born for this purpose: giving shelter to those reporters who would like to consider their job done once they have found a story to tell."

Il Fatto Quotidiano's character reflects Travaglio's and its editorial policy has been clear since its first cover story, which uncovered an ongoing investigation into Berlusconi right-hand man, Gianni Letta, which "nobody dared to talk about". After years digging behind the scenes, Travaglio was thrown into the spotlight in 2001, when he published the book L'odore dei soldi (The Smell of Money) a controversial account of the origins of the Italian PM's fortunes. The allegations in the book sparked a huge debate after the author appeared on a chat show, giving many Italians their first chance to hear about the mysterious origins of Berlusconi's media empire and his alleged ties to the Mafia. The PM sued for millions for having "literally shattered his public, political and entrepreneurial reputation," but was unsuccessful.

Travaglio is now touring Italian theatres with his vitriolic show, General Anaesthetic, in which he ridicules the contradictions of a country anaesthetised by a media that is a "servant to the political power" and oblivious of its role as society's watchdog.

As well as appearing on stage and in print, his tongue-lashing editorials are the flagship part of the successful talk-show AnnoZero, broadcasted on Italian state television, despite being on Berlusconi's blacklist.

Summing up his quest, Travaglio told his London audience: "We just do what journalism is all about: we call thieves 'thieves' and gentlemen 'gentlemen'. It does look obvious but, believe me, it is not in Italy."

Lillo Montalto Monella is an Italian reporter and photojournalist. A version of this article originally appeared at blogs.independent.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there