Italy Networks Slammed for Child Porn Report

ByABC News
September 28, 2000, 1:45 PM

R O M E, Sept. 28 -- Italians are reeling from a prime time news broadcast on two state-run channels that showed graphic footage of child pornography for a report on a pedophile ring.

Top managers and a handful of other journalists resigned today, and prosecutors have started an investigation to see whether the journalists can be charged with disseminating child pornography.

The news report, broadcast to an estimated 10 million viewers, detailed arrests surrounding a 19-month investigation of a pedophile ring that used the Internet.

Eight people were arrested in Italy and three were arrested in Russia. Police said 1,700 people were being investigated in Italy on suspicion of having bought child pornography online.

One part of the footage on Wednesday night showed a man lying on a floor while he forced a nude boy to sit on him.

The issue of the TV broadcasts has become highly charged because management positions in the state-run RAI channels are assigned politically, and Italy is in a pre-election period.

However, the political issue now risks overshadowing the real problem, which is pedophilia and the use of the Internet to market horrific crimes.

I feel that in this circumstance it is important to avoid political manipulation, which pushes the real problem into the background, Vatican spokesman, Joaquin Navarro Valls said today.

Anger in Parliament

What happened is absolutely unforgivable, said former prime minister and media magnate Silvio Berlusconi, head of the center-right opposition, whose own private television channels did not run the footage.

The opposition, which sees RAI as a mouthpiece for the governing center-left coalition, has demanded that heads roll.

The station was flooded with calls immediately after the newscast, forcing the executive producer of the report to appear live on air to apologize.

We broadcast some images about pedophiles that were simply despicable as well as violent and we feel obliged to apologize for this, said Gad Lerner, the executive producer of the newscast aired on the RAI-1 channel.