In January 2016, Italian student Giulio Regeni was tortured and murdered in Egypt. It is of paramount importance that we continue to pay attention to, talk about, and remember his story. Therefore, Giulio’s parents, their lawyer, and three journalists at La Repubblica discuss the investigation that is still going on to this day and the work that still needs to be done.
Giuliano Foschini and Carlo Bonini began working on the story right away. Over the course of 14 months, La Repubblica has published 171 articles about Giulio’s murder. The editor in chief told the journalists that they should keep writing about it until the full truth was obtained; pieces of the truth weren’t enough. At first, many of the people they spoke to had a cynical view. The powers that be in Egypt had their reasons for wanting to cover up the truth and, moreover, the relations between Italy and Egypt meant that the story had no future. Fortunately, this has turned out not to be true because the story is still talked about. Now, 14 months after the murder, it is very important that it is explained how things actually went, with the right words. When facing a dictatorship like in Egypt, the most subversive thing journalists can do is name names and use the right words. Giulio didn’t die, he was murdered. He didn’t disappear, he was abducted. The Egyptian regime did not simply make the journalists’ work more difficult, they deliberately and consistently hid the truth and distorted it. They lied. Because of this, the investigation is at a standstill. However, journalists have to commit to doing all they can, because truth and justice for Giulio isn’t simply truth and justice for a single Italian young man. It is truth and justice for people like him all around the world.
Alexander Stille of the Columbia Journalism School emphasises the enormously important positive role the press still has to play in a tragedy like this one. Without the press and therefore the public’s awareness, this terrible death could have been covered up very easily. Efforts of a newspaper such as La Repubblica have kept the public’s attention very high, and has made sure the Italian government did not go back to a situation of normality with the Egyptian government. The role social and new media played in this case was positive as well. Some members of the police forces and prosecutors attended Giulio’s funeral, and afterwards Giulio’s friends gave them their phones, laptops, tablets and said to use everything on the devices. They gave the investigators very valuable data which dismantled many of the Egyptian government’s lies and theories on the murder. Alessandra Ballerini, the family’s lawyer, adds that this was Giulio’s way of defending himself. Through his chats with his friends, Giulio proved that he was innocent. He never said things that could incriminate him.
Claudio Regeni, Giulio’s father, has an explicit request for the rest of Europe. He has visited the European Parliament and UNHCR to plea with them for tangible actions. The support of the Italian institutions has been great, but there have been some shortcomings from other European member states. The Italian ambassador to Egypt has been called back to Rome, which was a very clear message to the Egyptian government that Italy was serious about the case. Claudio urges other European countries to do the same.
As for Giulio’s mother, Paola Deffendi Regeni, emphasises the need to use the right words again. She is tired of hearing the term ‘Regeni case’, because it depersonalises the story. Furthermore, the description and depiction of Giulio by some newspapers has been very hurtful which was a tragedy in itself for the parents. Aside from the murder on their son, they had to deal with him being wrongfully depicted as a drug addict and a spy. That is why La Repubblica’s investigation and stories are so important: because they aspire to the truth.