When firecrackers are called bombs

This is a guest post by Madeleine Wahlberg, who recently attended the 2nd European Forum against “useless imposed Mega-projects”

Two days  ago Reuters put out a release titled “Bomb injures senior police officer in Italy rail protest”. It seems that the Guardian used this Reuters release – but checked no further http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/22/italian-police-injured-rail-protests The so called “bomb” was what in Italian they call a ‘white bomb’ (bomba carta) which is a firecracker. Yes, firecrackers can be dangerous too, but decent journalism does require some attention to actual facts. It was not a bomb. It was a firecracker.

It would be good if journalists also paid more attention to the ethics of their pieces. Locals in Susa say they do not think a Reuters journalist was at the event reported on. It looks like Reuters took their data from the Italian press, much of which cannot be relied on to be balanced and accurate, particularly in relation to reporting on major developments with which there are company tie-ins. Nor were either the Reuters or Guardian pieces balanced. They said nothing of the tear gas that the police/army used before the firecracker was thrown, or of the injuries to local protestors. ‘No TAV’ warmly invites journalists to come and talk to them directly and STOP HS2 will facilitate that if needed.

So what is the background? Italians have been fighting this stretch of ‘high speed rail’ for over 20 years. We have to refer to it ‘like this’ because actually it won’t be ‘high speed rail’, because it can’t be through the mountains. It will just be a new line, replicating the existing (and recently modernised) Frejus line which runs way below capacity. For over €17-23 billion (depends what you count in the costs!). But as neither the EU nor France nor Italy have this sort of money sloshing around, they are now deciding to just do it a bit at a time, as and when some funds are available… hopefully by sometime during the second half of the 21st century. So, that’s instead of investing in projects that could deliver jobs and major improvements in the network now…

‘No TAV’ have published ‘150 reasons against the Turin – Lyon link’. So let’s just leave it here: the proposal is a very expensive piece of nonsense and as well as objections right across Italy, the locals are adamant that it needs to be stopped. The current works were signed into action in the last days of the Berlusconi government because the EU part of the funding was on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis, and they were running up against the final ‘use it’ date. There is of course also a story to follow up about the links between bits of the Government and construction companies … So, with no idea where the rest of the money is coming from, the Italian Government fenced in a bit of mountain and said ‘we have started the project so give us the money’. What is more, the French side is now reconsidering their bit of the link.

People are outraged at the insanity of the project as well as the effects that it will have on the narrow Susa valley. So there has been an unbelievable amount of organised opposition and for about a year now, a quite unacceptable level of police violence against opposition groups, including imprisoning and firing head-level tear gas at objectors. The whole of Europe needs to say – this is no way to run a democracy or an economy, let alone a railway!

There are several other movements opposed to high-speed lines and / or tunnels and include ( DE ) Stop BBT (Brenner), ( FR ) Var Collectif TGV SudFR ) Stop Coudon TGV , ( FR ) The TGV Méchant PACA(movements against the French TGV Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur LGV PACA), ( ES ) PEL littoral AVE (AVE against the Spanish), IDRA Committee (Mugello and Florence-Bologna), Scrivia Committees(3 ° crossing Genoa-Alessandria) etc. Please contact Stop HS2, if you want to be put in touch with any of them.

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