, ROME, Jan 30 – A leading Catholic cardinal told the Italian media Saturday to curb their obsession with the sex scandal surrounding Silvio Berlusconi and criticised politicians for creating a "poisonous, violent climate."
News that Milan magistrates had accused Berlusconi of having sex with underage prostitutes and holding wild parties has caused a media frenzy, with fresh details of the scandal hitting the headlines each day.
"Political information should not be limited to scandal-mongering," Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, told journalists at a celebration of the patron saint of journalists, Francis de Sales, Ansa news agency said.
"Do newspapers and television really contribute to developing and furthering public opinion when they allow themselves to be contaminated by the poisonous, violent climate caused by a politics that forgets or undervalues people\’s real needs?" Tettamanzi said.
Allegations that the prime minister kept prostitutes in luxury apartments and paid to have sex with the underage girl, known as Ruby, have been strenuously denied by both Berlusconi and the Moroccan disco dancer.
But Italian media have continued to reveal details from wire-taps conversations between girls who attended the prime minister\’s parties alluding to orgies, lap dances and women dressed as nurses strip-teasing for Berlusconi.
Girls involved have given lengthy television interviews defending Berlusconi as a charitable man, and the prime minister himself has attacked the Milan magistrates in messages on his website broadcast widely on television.
Tettamanzi criticised press coverage of the scandal as "a hysterical depiction of reality," adding that "this country\’s real problems are certainly not the ones we\’ve been reading about for months."
The scandal has already sparked fierce criticism from the Church and opposition parties, who called on the prime minister to defend himself in court rather than on television.
As Italian media continued to report on claims of orgies organised by Berlusconi, tensions rose between a handful of outspoken, left-wing television hosts and the public broadcaster Rai, which is controlled by parliament.
Rai\’s director general, Mauro Masi, rang the \’Annozero\’ show live on Thursday during a debate over the sex scandal to
Berlusconi himself had phoned in to the \’Infidele\’ programme Monday night as it discussed the allegations, calling the show\’s host "contemptible, vile and loathsome" and ranting live on air about "whorehouse television."
The media watchdog IPI slammed Berlusconi for "interference… which amounts to intimidation and represents a violation of press freedom."
A handful of television hosts fought back Friday, announcing a protest in support of the judges in front of Milan\’s court for February 13, timed to coincide with a rally organised by Berlusconi\’s People of Freedom Party (PDL).