The “truth” about the Islam Online strike

picture by @3arabawy, licensed under Creative Commons BY .

Speaking about the Islam OnLine recent crisis and the strike its Egyptian employees are on since many days ago, I’ve read through Twitter this very interesting blog post by journalist (and former IOL employee) Nadia El Awady .

Nadia gives an interesting explanation which is not inscribed-as many in the West would guess- in the struggle  between a conservative (backed by the Qatari management) versus a more progressive vision of Islam (supported by the Egyptian employees on strike). Rather, the conflict would be much more based on two very different visions not of the religion but of the purpose of IOL which would finally be a conflict between a “da’wah” tool and a media organisation.

Two different visions of the ultime  goal of IOL which, for their Egyptian employees, is “more than a workplace, it’s a message” as this beautiful picture taken by 3arabawi shows.

picture by 3arabawy, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike.

I’ll re-publish here below Nadia’s beautiful post that you can also find of course on her blog http://nadiaelawady.wordpress.com

Trying to Understand IslamOnline’s Crisis

Posted on March 27, 2010 by nadiaelawady

I’ve been horseback riding instinctively ever since I was a little girl. A year-and-a-half ago I decided to learn how to do it properly. One important thing I’ve learned is

IslamOnline employees gather around their lawyer on the 10th day of the strike

that a relationship forms between horse and rider where there is a constant push-and-pull between the two; each trying to convince the other who is really in charge. While training, the half-ton horses have bucked, run wildly, and tried to throw me off. My role is then to show the horse that no matter what it does, I can hold on; I need to prove I’m a strong rider. Not only that, I need to bite back by pulling hard on one side of the reins and hurting the horse in the mouth to exert my control, otherwise it will continue trying to prove it’s boss.

After following the crisis at IslamOnline closely for the past 12 days, I think something similar to this analogy is happening between Cairo and Doha. I do not think it’s a battle between moderate and conservative Islam, as some would have us think. I do not think there’s a huge CIA conspiracy to eliminate moderate representations of Islam because “it is in the CIA’s best interests that Muslims continue to be seen as terrorists”; one possible explanation of what is happening at IslamOnline given by a worker on strike in the 6th of October building in Egypt.

From what I’ve seen, I think it’s a simple battle of one side showing the other who is in control; the sides being the Doha management at Al-Balagh Cultural Society – the legal owner of IslamOnline.net – and the Cairo editorial management of the IslamOnline website – the brains behind the content since day one.

The problem with this is that something in the range of 350 employees are caught in the middle.

I must be clear before I continue. I do not have any inside information on the current crisis beyond what everyone has already heard and read in the media. I have spoken with many of my former colleagues at IslamOnline and heard the sequence of events from them. I’ve also spoken on the phone with one of the Qatari board members involved in the current dispute. Nothing I have heard differs from what has already been said in the media.

I do, however, have the advantage of the perspective of someone who worked within the organization for eight years. During those eight years, I came to closely know everyone at the higher levels of the Cairo administration. They are like family to me. I also had the pleasure of meeting many of the Qataris; former and current board members of Al-Balagh Cultural Society.

As far as I am aware, none of the Qataris involved have over-conservative Islamic tendencies.

So What Is Happening?

One thing we’ve heard repeated by the Qatari side in the media is that IslamOnline has diverted from what it was originally intended to be.

A mistake the Qataris have repeatedly made is not explaining what they mean by this. And this leaves us to guess.

In my opinion and based on my experience with the organization, they could mean one or both of the following:

  1. In the website’s infancy, there were long discussions about whether IslamOnline was a da`wah website (preaching the teachings of Islam) or a media organization. The deputy head of the Qatari board at the time and co-founder of the website, Dr Hamed Al-Ansary, was of the opinion that IslamOnline was for da`wah. Eventually, however, the media aspect took over. How this happened and whether this was accepted by all parties involved, I do not know. I can only assume it was.
  2. IslamOnline started as an English and an Arabic website. Other sister projects then evolved, such as BiblioIslam, directed towards academics producing research papers related to Islam, and 20at, a website targeting Arab youth. In the past year or so, a rapid expansion of projects occurred. A satellite television station, ANA, was founded that focused on self-development issues. The Arabic website of IslamOnline also created several spin-offs; a website that focused solely on Islamic movements, another that provided academic analyses of events and issues in the Islamic world, and others that were about to launch such as a website focusing on development issues. Although this expansion seemed commendable from the outside, there were staff members, myself included, who felt that the expansion was happening too rapidly and in a way that was negatively impacting the original project: IslamOnline’s Arabic and English websites. One issue, for example, was that freelancers writing for the websites in 2008 were receiving the same amount of payment for articles as they had in 2000. When payment was increased, this happened only in a very minor way in 2009. Also, although IslamOnline started relatively early in the Internet revolution in the Arab world (in 1999) and it was one-of-a-kind at the time, it continued using almost the same technology base it had up until 2010. The result was that by 2010, IslamOnline was way behind the IT revolution compared to other media organizations in the Arab and Islamic worlds that moved onto the Internet. So although more funds were clearly pouring into the organization as a whole, they seemed to be spread thinly.

Understanding the Context

The Qataris have also publicly complained that the organization was accumulating unneeded human resources.

I agree.

Let me stop here and explain this a bit.

IslamOnline wasn’t run the way any ol’ company is run. IslamOnliners, what we’ve had a tendency to call people working there, are family. And the organization is very family friendly. Women who finished their three-month maternity leave, for example, were allowed to bring their babies to work and keep them at their sides. Some of those babies grew, walked and ran in front of my eyes. When IslamOnline moved to a new building in 6th of October in Egypt, it made sure to create a nursery for mothers with young children so that there was a way to stay close to their children and work at the same time. In Ramadan, many impromptu and pre-organized iftars brought employees and their families together. There were also many impromptu and pre-organized outings that included employees and their families. When IslamOnline moved to the 6th of October City, many employees moved their residences as well to be nearby. It’s as if many of those employees felt they would continue to work within the organization till the end of time; so where it moved they moved with it.

The loyalty to the organization went both ways. Just as employees were loyal to their employer, their employer was loyal to them. I can hardly remember any cases in which an employee was fired at IslamOnline. If that ever happened, it was rare. Of course, many employees left on their own accord for a variety of reasons. But this mainly happened at the lower and mid-management levels. In upper-mid management and upper management, staff has remained quite stable in the past years.  Sometimes it has appeared as if management has done whatever it can to keep some people on board even when they are not entirely sure where to put them. Other staff remained in certain positions even though it was clear they were not cut out for those positions. My understanding of why this happened in some cases is that management was loyal to employees who stuck with them for so long. They also did not want to be the cause of a loyal employee being unemployed. So they did their best to keep “homes open”, as we Arabs say.

It’s also important to mention that to many IslamOnliners, IslamOnline is not a job; it’s a message. This has also added to the loyalty many employees show to the organization and the upper management. They aren’t all in it necessarily for the stable salary or the comfortable working environment. They are in it because they strongly believe in the role IslamOnline is playing in portraying a moderate Islam.

This helps explain the position of many workers currently on strike. They are not only defending their jobs; they are defending the message.

Let me summarize how I see things happening:

A power struggle is happening between Doha and Cairo managements. Doha believes changes need to be made in Cairo. These changes probably mean some employees –

Qatar-appointed lawyer allegedly arrived on Thursday with employees’ severance packages. He left without paying anyone a penny.

maybe even many – losing their jobs and some projects being cut back or removed to refocus efforts on the original projects: IslamOnline English and Arabic websites. Cairo is full against these changes, especially those related to staff losing jobs in this difficult economic climate. The power struggle between the two administrations got out of hand and became personalized, with each party strongly believing the “truth” was on their side. An out of hand power struggle turned to an ugly power struggle, with both parties probably in the wrong.

And the employees got caught in the middle.

I was last at IslamOnline on Thursday, the tenth day of the strike. Employees were placed in a very difficult situation. They had to decide whether to accept severance packages from the Qatari administration and leave for good, or stay and defend the building for a potential future project. They were told that there were efforts to get funding – the funding even existed – for a project that had a message similar to that of IslamOnline. They were told by the management in Cairo that if they stayed and continued to strike, they would be given priority in this project. No further information was given; not that I am aware of, at least.

This logic concerns me. To me it appears to be a continuation of the previous management style that I do not believe was entirely successful: if you stay with me, we’ll find you a job one way or another in a project we’re still figuring out even if your skill sets and your numbers do not exactly fit our needs.

At the same time, Qatari management is continuing to fight back to exert its control over the situation: we’ll show you who is boss. The more you fight us, the more we’ll fight back.

The result is that some 350 employees at Islamonline are concerned about receiving their March salaries. They have no clear idea what to expect if they stayed for a potential future project with the current Cairo administration. The alternative is to start looking for a new job when this prospect was so far from many of their minds.

In the meantime:

  • Qatari management continues to “negotiate” the employees’ severance packages with no real end in sight,
  • Cairo management continues to talk about a potential future project with no real form or structure and a questionable management approach,
  • and 350 employees do not know what tomorrow will bring.

“West by the Arab media” and musalsalat on YouTube

After many people asked for copies, and thanks to my Danish friend @moltke, I was finally able to upload  on my brand new  YouTube channel ThedonatellaDR (sounds a little bit “over” but not many other names were available) some excerpts of the festival “Occidente dai media arabi” that we held in January 2008 at Teatro Palladium in Rome, then replicated in a smaller version at the European Parliament in Brussels in April 2009.

After those two major screenings, I’ve been showing around during many academic presentations those incredibly interesting little fragments of Arab TV, and everybody kept asking “could you make a copy for me?!”.

Finally we won’t need to copy anymore and you could find this material online (it’s great that some teachers and educational institutions have been asking for it already).

Those are the 4 clips from the festival that we have uploaded on You Tube:

“Irhab Academy” (Terrorism Academy), Saudi Arabia 2006

Written by Abdallah B. Al Otibi -a former “wannabe” jihadist that now makes  “anti terror”television programs-   this is an episode of the well known Saudi musalsal “Tash ma tash” that has been broadcasted during each Ramadan for many years and it’s widely popular all across the Arab Region.

A powerful satire of the famous Lebanese reality show Star Academy”, “Irhab Academy” uses the strongest weapon of mass distruction -irony- to ridiculize terrorism as an act of stupidity.

“Block 13”, Kuwait 2001-2003

The Kuwaiti “version” (very different indeed, except from the drawings) of South Park set in a Gulf capital. The excerpt shows a funny scene with a copycat of Saddam Hussein triying to kidnap Kuwaiti scholarbus in a clumsy way.

“Al Hur al ein” (The beautiful maiden), United Arab Emirates, 2005

Directed by Syrian Najdat Anzour (one of the most controversial and acclaimed Arab directors), the soap opera tells about the 2003 terrorist attacks to a compound in Riyad, Saudi Arabia, that killed  35 people and wounded over 160, mostly Arabs.

“Saqf al alam” (The roof of the world), Syria, 2007

“Saqf al alam” has a special meaning, expecially those days that the Danish cartoons controversy has been revamped by the gloomy revelations of David Headley, who admitted an existing terror plot against Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten.

The scene that we have translated and uploaded shows that there could be another way to address the issue, which both Muslims and Danes should seek: dialogue.

The Al Waleed-Murdoch Middle Eastern connection raises Arab fears

Thanks to my Twitter friends, I’ve just jumped into this interesting Zawya’s article (based on AFP)  “Murdoch’s pan-Arab foray seen as ‘Trojan horse’ in Egypt”.

The article starts like that:

“The tie-up between Arab entertainment giant Rotana and pro-Israel media mogul Rupert Murdoch is viewed in Egypt not only with suspicion but as signalling the decline of Arab film and art heritage”.

I’m actually more surprised for this article coming from AFP rather than for its actual contents.

Arabs now fearing that this alliance would bring “normalisation” to Arab-Israeli relations and would result into a benefit for Israel  frankly looks a bit naif.

Murdoch and Al Waleed have been doing business together for a long time. The Saudi Prince is actually the only non- family member to own a stake in Murdoch’s News Corp capital (see 23 January post on this blog).

In 1997 the Time reports  Al Waleed stating that:

“I want to concentrate on communications, technology, entertainment and news. This is the future. News Corp. is the only truly global news and entertainment company.”

“His business investments in the Middle East, for example, provide him with direct access to Arab heads of state, on whom he may have a moderating influence, since many of Alwaleed’s international partners are Jewish and support Israel. “Religion has never been a barrier between us,” says Four Seasons Hotels Inc. CEO Isadore Sharp. “He mentioned once that we have similar value systems and moral principles.”
Al Waleed and Murdoch have been involved in a long time business friendship. Why are Arabs so scared of Murdoch bringing pro- Israeli arguments in the Region now that he owns a stake in Rotana?
Didn’t they know that the Prince has been directly involved in News Corp. for many years?
Why haven’t they questioned him before?
Al Waleed is a smart businessman, he has investments in major sectors of Western economies (hotels, entertainment, technology, etc). He is also smart in the Middle East, where at the same time he sponsors “liberal” pop channels like Rotana and Islamic entertainment stations like Al Risala TV.
Once I attended a media forum in Dubai, many years ago, and the Prince was there. At the time,  Muslim riots were exploding everywhere in France, particularly in Paris suburbs. The Prince said he was not happy about the way Fox News (which belongs to News Corp) was covering the events, being it anti-Muslims biased. So he just picked up the phone and called his long-time friend in order to “adjust” the coverage.
(as the AFP take reported by Zawya reminds: “When in 2005 Alwaleed was reported as saying he had influenced how Fox News depicted rioting in heavily Muslim suburbs in France, the conservative Accuracy in Media group called for an investigation”).
It’s a funny story and Arabs should bear this in mind when they start pointing at a pro-Israeli (or anti-Arab) conspiracy.
Is this starting only because Murdoch is finally coming himself to Region?
Did everybody in the Arab world really ignore that Al Waleed was doing business with Murdoch since long time ago?
Were they so “naif” to ignore the fact that, by owning a significant stake in News Corp., the Prince could have actually an influence himself on its editorial strategy instead of being  passively influenced by it?

Business is business, and sometime this is true also in the Arab world. Al Waleed has been working with Murdoch for many years in order to grow his commercial interests in Western profitable media industries. Being Murdoch a pro-Israeli or not, this doesn’t matter to Al Waleed so much. They are both businessmen in a global economy.
That would be great if Arab journalists and intellectuals would once focus on the deeper political-economical implications of this deal, perform the duties of  investigative journalism and do analysis, instead of going back always to the same old story of “conspiracy” which mostly helps maintaining a passive and not constructive attitude in the Arab world.

Lessig: “Italy and the Internet”

Lawrence Lessig just published on the Huffington Post the english original version of the article that La Stampa sent out yesterday in Italian.

“Italy and the Internet”, much more appropriate title that the one La Stampa gave..

Lawrence Lessig

Lawrence Lessig

Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, Co-founder of Change Congress

Posted: March 16, 2010 07:10 AM

Italy and the Internet

(An English version of an essay published today in Italian in La Stampa, Turin)

I had the honor last week to give a lecture at the Italian Parliament, as part of an extraordinary effort by the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Gianfranco Fini, to host debates about the future of the Internet. No equivalent series has ever been held, or received the same serious attention at the United States Congress. And it was a refreshing reminder of what serious policymaking might be — to see senior Members of one of Europe’s most important democracies working to understand this, the most important platform for economic growth throughout the world.

The panel was opened by the President, emphasizing both the critical importance the network has for youth across the world, and the necessity to protect it against irrational and protectionist legislation. Italy is leading the push to get the Nobel Committee to consider the Internet for the Peace Prize. Hundreds within the Parliament have already signed the petition.

My own lecture emphasized the need for governments to resist the increasing extremism that marks debates about the Internet. Both Internet cheerleaders (as I have been fairly accused of being) and Internet opponents do too little to understand the truth in the other side’s charges. Though the Internet has inspired an extraordinary range of creativity, artists are right to complain that illegal filesharing has harmed at least some of them. And though the explosion of free or near free news has given us unprecedented access to immediate information from around the world, journalists are right to worry that support for investigative journalism will disappear as media becomes less profitable. And though new standards of transparency by government, pushed especially by the Obama Administration, have made an unprecedented range of government data accessible to all, critics are right to be concerned about the ways that transparency can weaken, rather than strengthen, public trust in government. In each context, we must recognize that the Internet is not going away, and that we should celebrate the great value it has given us. But we should also find ways to minimize harms that openness might encourage.

At the end of my talk, however, I was surprised to hear the criticism of Vice-Minister Paolo Romani that I had not offered “specific solutions” to policy problems. Americans are often too blunt. Perhaps in my effort to compensate, I had been too subtle. For in each of the areas that I discussed, I had described specific policy recommendations that any democratic government should, in my view, pursue. And after listening to the interventions of the other 7 participants on the panel, I am even more convinced of this than I was before.

First, with respect to copyright: Governments need to recognize that the war we wage against our kids to stop illegal filesharing is unwinnable, and that we should be looking for other ways to assure the objective of copyright — that artists be paid — without criminalizing a generation.

Second, regarding journalism: We need stronger protections for independent journalists, to assure a meaningful check on government and corporate misbehavior.

And third, regarding trust in government: Governments need to be sensitive to the kinds of conflicts that tend to weaken faith in democracy.

Each of these three areas is directly relevant to the one specific Italian policy question that I did address, and with which Minister Romani has become most closely associated — what the Press calls, the “Romani Decree.” That decree purports to regulate online video sites such as YouTube under the same standards that apply to television broadcasting companies, such as Prime Minister Berlusconi’s company. I criticized this approach, and in light of the three policy areas I addressed, it is not hard to see why.

With respect to copyright, Romani believes equal treatment would better protect copyright owners. But there’s no relevant equivalence between a one-to-many broadcast curated by a single company, and a many-to-many video platform, making unselected uploaded content available to anyone who chooses to watch. Forcing both to live under the same rules is simply to force the YouTubes of the world to adopt rules that block a world of amateur created content that can’t afford the clearance costs that professional content can. “Equal treatment” is just a thumb on the scale in favor of existing broadcast television.

Likewise with the Vice-Minister’s defense of the idea that platforms such as YouTube should bear equivalent liability for harmful or offensive speech, like the horrific video of teenagers insulting a mentally handicapped teen. As You Tube “obviously,” the Minister informed us, “had pre-clearance algorithms to block porn from You Tube,” there “must be an algorithm they could use” to block other such offensive conduct as well.

But You Tube has no automatic filter for pornography on its site. It bans it, but must rely upon users to flag it as “inappropriate” first. And there is no computer scientist in the world who believes he has an algorithm for automatically distinguishing between the shameful insults of a mentally handicapped teenager and the normal playful interactions of kids. So once again, a rule that treats these different services as “the same” is simply a rule to favor broadcasters over the Internet.

Likewise with my concern about journalism: Services such as You Tube have become a critical tool for investigative journalists. Unlike broadcasts, which once made, effectively disappear, You Tube-like services never forget. A politician’s claims one week can be compared with his claims the following week. Differences can be shown. Political pressure can then be brought to bear. Weakening the You Tubes of the Net by burdening them with broadcaster regulation simply weakens this important source of democratic accountability. Fears about liability will simply push more critical content off the wires.

Finally, my concern about trust: As I argued, the more we understand about what government does, the more opportunities there are for misunderstanding as well. Innocent acts may seem sinister because of apparently sinister associations, and a politician may have no easy way to correct how the act appears. So in the United States, the private funding of public elections leads most Americans to believe “money buys results in Congress” whether or not it does — and even more so as groups such as MAPLight.org (on whose board I proudly sit) makes the links between financial contributions and legislative behavior even more clear and, in a word, icky.

Yet this is precisely the feeling one gets about Vice-Minister Romani’s “decree.” He may in good faith believe that his regulation is sensible. I have no basis to question his motives, and have no way of knowing exactly how much he understands about how the Internet actually works.

But in a government already so tightly tied to traditional broadcast television, any push to burden the Internet in a way that would only benefit traditional broadcast TV is, in a word, icky. When Italians recognize that these regulations have the obvious effect of protecting 20th century media from the competition of 21st century media, will they even listen to arguments about sensible policy? Will they even wonder to ask what possible justification for these regulations there might be?

The answer to these costs from transparency, of course, is not less transparency. It is setting up government so that reasonable people can’t mistrust its motives, even when they see all. In the United States, that mistrust is an unavoidable consequence of privately funded public elections. In Italy, it is an unavoidable consequence of a government so intimately tied to traditional broadcast media. In both cases, the costs force the democracy to choose — between the status quo and trust in democracy.

There is enormous skepticism and anger in both America and Italy about how democracy does, or does not work. In both countries, I suggest, the “specific policy recommendation” that Vice-Minister Romani asked for should be to worry more about responding to that anger by restoring democracy’s trust.

The support of President Fini for the true principles of the Internet, and the leadership of Italy in getting the Nobel Committee to recognize this “weapon of mass construction” is a model the rest of the world should follow. But unfortunately, the conflict of a 20th century media government burdening 21st century media is a pattern followed by too much of the world already. It only muddies the message of good policy that President Fini is so keen to convey.

Lessig’s slides on his Italian Parliament lecture

I’d like to share this link to the  lecture Larry Lessig delivered on 11th march at Italian Parliament. It has been extremely ispiring for many people (and, hopefully, for our Parliament members and ministries, particularly for Paolo Romani who’s responsible for this shameful “Romani decree”) and we are looking forward to seeing how this will influence future developements in our country.

Lessig also followed up today on Italian daily news La Stampa by sending them a very interesting article that they titled “Internet.La trasparenza aiuta la fiducia” (Internet. Trasparency helps trust). This is not really what Lessig meant, I guess, particularly during his lecture -and on his famous pamphlet “Against transparency“- where he argued that actually transparency can also enhance mistrust in democracy.

Article is still not available online but you can find it on La Stampa newspaper today.

Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons, at the Italian Parliament on 11th March

Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons, Director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics and Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, is going to lecture at the Italian Parliament in Rome on 11th March starting at 3pm (free entry with ID, but limited seats available, so the earlier the better. Pls email me so I can send the official invitation to print and bring with you).

Gianfranco Fini, President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, is going to introduce Lessig’s lecture  in the framework of a debate entitled “Internet è libertà” (Internet is freedom) organised by Capitale Digitale, in cooperation with Creative Commons and Nexa Center for Internet and Society in Turin.

A panel debate will follow the lecture with, among the others, Paolo Romani, vice Minister of Communication in the Berlusconi’s government, who gave the name to the controversial Romani decree.

“The law, which bears the signature of Paolo Romani, vice minister of communications for the Berlusconi government, calls for measures that would allow government control of audiovisual content on the web”, as the European Journalism Centre reports.

“In particular, the decree would force anyone wanting to upload videos to the Internet – be they single users or professional publishers – to seek a licence from the Ministry of Communication. Individual users, private citizens, would when uploading videos be equated under the new law with a television station… with all the legal obligations implied”.

In such a difficult time for Italian democracy and with all the controversies raised in the past few days (not only on new Internet and audiovisual law projects but also on the regional elections),  this debate is much more than needed and we’ll see where it will end up.

What’s happening to my country

Today I got up in a foreign country and read the news about mine. I still can’t believe that “that” is my country. Everytime I read about what’s happening in Italy I have the impression it’s something happening on the moon, on a strange planet.

Today I read Stefano Rodotà’s column on Repubblica about the latest developments in Italy, a country where if there is a problem –like it happened to Berlusconi’s coalition, not being on time to present the candidates’ list for the upcoming regional elections– the Prime Minister says “let’s change the law“. And if somebody, who still believes in the Costitution as a super-partes thing, refuses to do it, he/she is immediately labelled as “communist, conspirator, etc”.

Rodota’ says we have passed the limit. He underlines “how deep is the abyss which we are falling into”.

It’s not an exaggeration or a complain. Italy was the country of beaty, history, style, nice people, dolce vita, bla bla …

It is now a place where somebody who doesn’t like something simply decides to change it. The problem is that this “somebody” is the Prime Minister and this “something” is the law.

Sitting in a beatiful Nordic country, I still can’t believe the country I’m reading about is “my” country, the country where I was raised, where I studied, where I was educated by parents and the society surronding me to respect others, to respect the law. That was my country. A country with dignity. I hope there is still some left. I should say, inshallah.

I’m thankful to Rodotà for this beatiful article which I re-publish here below (although I don’t have any rights to do it). I wish it was in english.

Una crisi di regime

di STEFANO RODOTA’

CHE COSA indica la decisione del Tar del Lazio che, ritenendo inapplicabile l’assai controverso decreto del Governo, ha confermato l’esclusione della lista del Pdl dalle elezioni regionali in questa regione? In primo luogo rivela l’approssimazione giuridica del Governo e dei suoi consulenti, incapaci di mettere a punto un testo in grado di superare il controllo dei giudici amministrativi. Ma proprio questa superficialità è il segno della protervia politica, che considera le regole qualcosa di manipolabile a proprio piacimento senza farsi troppi scrupoli di legalità. E, poi, vi è una sorta di effetto boomerang, che mette a nudo le contraddizioni di uno schieramento politico che, da una parte, celebra in ogni momento le virtù del federalismo e, dall’altra, appena la convenienza politica lo consiglia, non esita a buttarlo a mare, tornando alla pretesa del centro di disporre anche delle materie affidate alla competenza delle regioni.

Proprio su quest’ultima constatazione è sostanzialmente fondata la sentenza del Tar del Lazio. La materia elettorale, hanno sottolineato i giudici, è tra le competenze delle regioni e, partendo appunto da questo dato normativo, la Regione Lazio ha approvato nel 2008 una legge che ha disciplinato questa materia.Lo Stato non può ora invadere questo spazio, sostituendo con proprie norme quelle legittimamente approvate dal Consiglio regionale. Il decreto, in conclusione, non è applicabile nel Lazio. I giudici amministrativi, inoltre, hanno messo in evidenza come non sia possibile dimostrare alcune circostanze che, in base al decreto del 5 marzo, rappresentano una condizione necessaria per ritenere ammissibile la lista del Pdl. In quel decreto, infatti, si dice che il termine per la presentazione delle liste si considera rispettato quando “i delegati incaricati della presentazione delle liste, muniti della prescritta documentazione, abbiano fatto ingresso nei locali del Tribunale”. Il Tar mette in evidenza due fatti. Il primo riguarda l’assenza proprio del delegato della lista che ha chiesto la riammissione. E, seconda osservazione, non è possibile provare che lo stesso delegato, presentatosi in ritardo, avesse con sé il plico contenente la documentazione richiesta.

Se il primo rilievo sottolinea l’approssimazione di chi ha scritto il decreto, il secondo svela la volontà di usare il decreto per coprire il “pasticcio” combinato dai rappresentanti del Pdl. Che non è frutto, lo sappiamo, di insipienza. È stato causato da un conflitto interno a quel partito sulla composizione della lista, trascinatosi fino all’ultimo momento, anzi oltre l’ultimo momento fissato per la presentazione della lista. È una morale politica, allora, che deve essere ancora una volta messa in evidenza. Per risolvere le difficoltà di un partito non si è esitato di fronte ad uno stravolgimento delle regole del gioco. La prepotenza ha impedito anche di avere un minimo di pazienza, visto che la riammissione da parte dei giudici dei listini di Formigoni e Polverini ha eliminato il rischio maggiore, quello di impedire in regioni come la Lombardia e il Lazio che il partito di maggioranza avesse un suo candidato. Si dirà che, una volta di più, i giudici comunisti hanno intralciato l’azione di Berlusconi e dei suoi mal assortiti consorti? È possibile. Per il momento, però, dobbiamo riconoscere che proprio i deprecati giudici hanno arrestato, sia pure provvisoriamente (si attende la decisione del Consiglio di Stato), una deriva verso la sospensione di garanzie costituzionali.

Non possiamo dimenticare, infatti, che la democrazia è anche procedura: e  il decreto del governo manipola proprio le regole del momento chiave della democrazia rappresentativa. La democrazia è tale solo se è assistita da alcune precondizioni: e le sciagurate decisioni della Commissione parlamentare di vigilanza e del Consiglio d’amministrazione della Rai hanno obbligato al silenzio una parte importante dell’informazione, rendendo così precaria proprio la precondizione che, nella società della comunicazione, ha un ruolo decisivo. Non dobbiamo aver paura delle parole, e quindi dobbiamo dire che proprio la congiunzione di questi due fatti, se dovesse permanere, altererebbe a tal punto le dinamiche istituzionali, politiche e sociali da rendere giustificata una descrizione della realtà italiana di oggi come un tempo in cui garanzie costituzionali essenziali sono state sospese.

Comunque si concluda questa vicenda, il confine dell’accettabilità democratica è stato comunque varcato. Una crisi di regime era già in atto ed oggi la viviamo in pieno. Nella storia della Repubblica non era mai avvenuto che una costante della vita politica e istituzionale fosse rappresentata dall’ansiosa domanda che accompagna fin dalle sue origini gli atti di questo Governo e della sua maggioranza parlamentare: firmerà il Presidente della Repubblica? Questo vuol dire che è stata deliberatamente scelta la strada della forzatura continua e che si è deciso di agire ai margini della legalità costituzionale (un tempo, quando si diceva che una persona viveva ai margini della legalità, il giudizio era già definitivo). Questa scelta è divenuta la vera componente di una politica della prevaricazione, che Berlusconi ha fatto diventare guerriglia continua, voglia di terra bruciata, pretesa di sottomettere ogni altra istituzione. Da questa storia ben nota è nata l’ultima vicenda, dalla quale nessuno può essere sorpreso e che, lo ripeto, rivela piuttosto quanto profondo sia l’abisso nel quale stiamo precipitando,
A questo punto, la scelta di Napolitano, ispirata com’è alla tutela di “beni” costituzionali fondamentali, deve assumere anche il valore di un “fin qui, e non oltre”, dunque di un presidio dei confini costituzionali che arresti la crisi di regime. Ma non mi illudo che la maggioranza, dopo aver lodato in questi giorni l’essere super partes di Giorgio Napolitano, tenga domani lo stesso atteggiamento di fronte a decisioni sgradite in materie che già sono all’ordine del giorno.

Ora i cittadini hanno preso la parola, e bene ha fatto il Presidente della Repubblica a rispondere loro direttamente. Qualcosa si è mosso nella società e tutti sappiamo che la Costituzione vive proprio grazie al sostegno e alla capacità di identificazione dei cittadini. È una novità non da poco, soprattutto dopo anni di ossessivo martellamento contro la Costituzione. Oggi la politica dell’opposizione dev’essere tutta politica “costituzionale”. Dopo tante ricerche di identità inventate o costruite per escludere, sarebbe un buon segno se la comune identità costituzionale venisse assunta come la leva per cercar di uscire da una crisi che, altrimenti, davvero ci porterebbe, in modo sempre meno strisciante, a un cambiamento di regime.

© Riproduzione riservata (09 marzo 2010)