Daily Archives: February 19, 2013

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Italy's former Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi delivers a speech during a rally of his party "Popolo della liberta" (People of the Freedom - PDL) in Rome, on February 7, 2013 (ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

(AFP/Getty)

As Italy’s increasingly surreal election campaign draws to a close, it is still hard to believe that Silvio Berlusconi, who exited government so ignominiously 18 months ago, may well garner enough votes with his coalition partners next weekend to deny the centre-left and Mario Monti an outright win.

Should that happen, as is probable, Italians are destined for more political instability. They may be back at the polls within a year or 18 months.

In that context alone, understanding the enduring appeal of Berlusconi – who failed to stem a decline of Italian economic competitiveness during his time in office and remains mired in corruption trials – can be baffling for an outsider. But go out on the stump with Italy’s veteran showman, as I did on Monday night, and it all becomes a little clearer. Read more

Gideon Rachman

Sri Lankan journalist Faraz Shauketaly is rushed to hospital (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Sri Lankan journalist Faraz Shauketaly was rushed to hospital on February 16 (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

The Sri Lankan government has a pretty dismal reputation on human rights, but has paid little discernible price for this. Perhaps the rest of the world is simply grateful that a terrible civil war has come to a close – however brutal the finale.

It is important that disappearances and shootings in Sri Lanka should not go unremarked. So, in case you missed it, here is an FT report on the shooting of a Sri Lankan journalist last week. As the report notes, Sri Lanka is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. Some 39 have been killed over the last seven years.

The journalist who was shot this week worked for the Sunday Leader newspaper – whose editor was assassinated a couple of years ago, after predicting that he would be murdered by people linked to the government. The Sri Lankan government obviously denies any connection to the killing of journalists – although Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the country’s volatile defence secretary, has issued barely-veiled threats against senior journalists for writing stories he did not like. The transcript of the conversation is here. The defence minister’s interview with the BBC Hardtalk programme also gives a flavour of the man. Read more