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Death Threats Against Italian Author

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Roberto Saviano, Italian author, and journalist with "La Repubblica," whose bestseller nonfiction novel, "Gamorra," details the activities of the Neapolitan mafia, has been threatened with assassination by Christmas.

The release of the film version of "Gomorra" is said to be the catalyst for this recent death threat. According to International PEN, the book, and film, denounce the activities of the Camorra, a Naples crime family, which has led to their declared intention to kill Saviano before the holiest day of the Christian calendar.

The Italian writer has had the constant protection of Italian police for two years now, but he feels sufficiently imperiled to flee his homeland. That any artist, anywhere, should be forced into exile for the simple crime of exposing corruption, and abuse of power, of any kind, is an insult to civilization, and a threat to us all.

In 2008 alone, more than 30 writers and reporters worldwide have been murdered for little more than describing the world around them. It was two years ago on October 7th that renowned Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, was gunned down in the elevator of her apartment building in Moscow. She had been reporting on the war in Chechnya, and was in the midst of doing a major investigative piece on the Russian government's collusion in human rights violations in the breakaway republic.

Any government, whether it be Russia or Italy, that allows those who engage in the free flow of information to be targeted and forced into exile is in collusion with those who pose a menace to the life of authors, and the written word.

This is not the first time we've seen a prominent journalist be slated for assassination, or assassinated -- nor is Italy the only country. Journalists have been killed everywhere from Mexico to Pakistan, from Tehran to Moscow.

All artists, as well as all those who value freedom of expression, must not only condemn the actions of the cowardly few who try to silence opposition, but demand accountability from those governments who harbor them.

One of the newspapers which features Saviano's work, "La Repubblica," has posted a petition to their Web site for those who wish to speak out against this egregious threat:

http://www.repubblica.it/speciale/2008/appelli/saviano2/index.html