“Is It Really Worth It?” – The Map of Italian Journalists Facing Threats


By Jacopo Ottaviani, contributor at Il Fatto Quotidiano and the Guardian Datablog.


More than 300 journalists faced threats in Italy in 2012. This is what emerges from the data journalism work by three Italian journalists and developers, Isacco Chiaf, Andrea Fama and Jacopo Ottaviani, who published a cross-platform project that gives a snapshot of the phenomenon.

An interactive map presents the cases recorded in 2012 across Italy, giving a top-down view of the phenomenon. Threats are clustered on the basis of the type: intimidation (104), legal actions (63), assaults (16), malicious mischief (12 cases).

A batchgeo map traces all the cases of threats that involved 324 journalists in 2012 alone.

A more detailed perspective comes from three individual cases of threat that have been represented through timelines including audio, video and other multimedia contents. Through these timelines it is possible to explore unreleased interviews, original documents underlying the investigations, features from the news and the media, and to share them across the social web.

Two more maps show the density of the phenomenon at the regional level, focusing on the number of cases of threat and of journalists involved. The regions recording the most threats are southern Sicily and Calabria.

The density maps show the number of threats recorded in the regions of Italy out of the number of journalists working in them. The southern regions such as Calabria and Sicily show a major presence of the phenomenon.

The project is based on the data by the observatory Ossigeno per l’Informazione ("oxygen for information") which has been monitoring the phenomenon of Italian journalists under threat for years now. In its annual reports Ossigeno sheds light on the situation, recording single stories of threats and aggregating the whole dataset.

How the project was born

The project was born during the DiGiT conference on New Media in Florence, Italy, in July 2013, from an idea of one of the journalists behind the project, Andrea Fama. Andrea talked about the idea of building a new narrative representation of Ossigeno’s data on threatened journalists, by building a set of maps and timelines. In six months we got in touch with the observatory and built up the whole project, with the support of ahref foundation, who financed our work with a grant.

The team consisted of three people coming from three different backgrounds: a data journalist/computer scientist, an artist/designer and a journalist/editor. The three of us share the passion of storytelling and civic journalism. A rational division of work drove the collaboration. However, everyone could contribute to the other colleagues' tasks. 

Advice for journalists

Our suggestion for people who would like to develop similar projects is to specialise in a particular field without forgetting to learn a bit about other fields as well. It helps for programmers to learn how to write news and for journalists to learn how to code. By blurring the boundaries between different skills and backgrounds innovation in the media will be possible. Computer scientists, journalists, statisticians, designers and illustrators should learn to work together and influence each other. Data journalism builds on this blend of skills and experiences.

GiornalistiMinacciati.it is available both in Italian and English. Below is the infographic that summarizes the results.