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Indro Montanelli (1909-2001)  

As a freelancer covering the Spanish Civil War, Montanelli was expelled from the Italian journalists’ union and forced into exile by the Fascists in 1937 because of his objective reporting. Returning to Italy in 1939, he was arrested by the Nazis in 1943 and sentenced to death for an article on Benito Mussolini. He managed to escape after 10 months in prison. Born in Fucecchio, near Florence, on April 22, 1909, Montanelli studied law and political science at the University of Florence. He began his journalism career as a freelance reporter for Paris Soir and the United Press news agency before joining the prestigious Milan daily, Il Corriere della Sera, in 1939. Initially a supporter of Italian fascism, he joined the ruling National Fascist Party as a youth and served in the Italian campaign in Abyssinia. However, he quickly established a reputation for independent reporting as a war correspondent in Spain, Finland, Norway, Albania and Greece. He was arrested by the Gestapo and sentenced to death in January 1944 for an unflattering piece on Mussolini and his lover, Clara Petacci, but he escaped to Switzerland before they could execute him. After the war, Montanelli returned to Il Corriere della Sera and built a reputation as one of Italy’s most-respected journalists. In 1973, he decided to leave Il Corriere, after its new owners signaled a swing to the left, and founded his own conservative daily, Il Giornale.
On June 2, 1977, Montanelli was walking to his office in Milan when he was shot four times in the legs by members of the extreme leftist Red Brigades movement. Undaunted, he returned to his position as editor in chief of Il Giornale and launched a campaign against terrorism. Ironically, Il Giornale was eventually muzzled by Montanelli’s friend, media mogul and future prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who had become a minority shareholder of the paper in 1978. When Berlusconi decided to enter politics in 1994 against Montanelli’s urging, Montanelli was typically outspoken in his condemnation. He predicted that Il Giornale would join Berlusconi’s three television networks as a mouthpiece for the candidate’s election campaign.
Already in his mid-80s, Montanelli left Il Giornale. He rejected an offer by the new publisher of Il Corriere to return to the daily as editor and instead launched another newspaper, La Voce, in March 1994. La Voce became a leading voice of opposition to Berlusconi’s controversial and short-lived government. Although La Voce sold as many as 400,000 copies daily during Berlusconi’s campaign, circulation later dropped off and the daily was forced to close after only a year because of financial difficulties. Montanelli returned to Il Corriere della Sera to write a daily column in which he comments on readers’ letters.
The author of some 60 books, Montanelli is the recipient of numerous awards, including the World Press Review’s International Editor of the Year for 1994 and Spain’s prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for Communications and Humanities in 1996. His belief in journalism free of any constraints is best exemplified in his decision in 1991 to refuse an appointment as senator-for-life of the Republic of Italy.

International Press Institute

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