“To be a journalist in Sicily, you need a pair of hard balls, not a press card,” says Pino Maniaci, 60, lone anchorman and owner of Telejato TV. Every afternoon since 1999, Pino has reported on the latest crimes of the Sicilian Mafia.
With the help of Pino’s adult children, Telejato TV broadcasts two hours a day from a converted apartment in the small town of Partinico, Sicily, Italy. On this island, an estimated 70 to 90 percent of businesses pay protection money to the Mafia. Telejato gets its scoops from community members who, according to Pino, prefer to report murder and extortion to the station than to the police for fear of reprisals. Pino was the first to speak the full names – instead of the initials – of local Mafiosi on air, and although he has been beaten, his family threatened and his car burned in retaliation, the chain-smoking crusader plays it off: “Telejato has six rooms and two toilets,” he says, “if we are scared, we go to the toilet.”
Nearly 150,000 viewers in the provinces of Palermo, Trapani and Messina tune in to Telejato. So does the Mafia. According to Pino, former Cosa Nostra godfather Bernardo Provenzano once had a special antenna positioned to receive Telejato TV while in hiding. Until Provenzano’s arrest in 2006, Pino acknowledged the godfather by broadcasting a special birthday wish to him every January 31: “You piece of shit, surrender.” In 2009, the Italian Federation of Journalists awarded Pino an honorary press card.
From the pages of COLORS #86 - Making the News.