Italian PM’s party shrugs off video of youth wing members performing fascist salutes

Far-right Brothers of Italy claims investigative media report into National Youth, which also featured shouts of ‘Seig Heil’ and ‘Duce,’ shows ‘fragmented, decontextualized images’

Illustrative: Members of National Youth, the youth wing of the Brothers of Italy party, hold a banner reading "Homeland" as they attend a joint rally of Italy's right-wing parties at Piazza del Popolo in Rome, September 22, 2022. (Andreas Solaro/AFP)
Illustrative: Members of National Youth, the youth wing of the Brothers of Italy party, hold a banner reading "Homeland" as they attend a joint rally of Italy's right-wing parties at Piazza del Popolo in Rome, September 22, 2022. (Andreas Solaro/AFP)

ROME — Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right party Wednesday dismissed an undercover media investigation into the fascist leanings of its youth wing.

“The journalistic report was built on the basis of fragmented, decontextualized images, taken in a private setting,” said Luca Ciriani, minister for relations with parliament and a member of Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party.

The investigation published last week by Italian news website Fanpage included video of members in Rome of the National Youth, the junior wing of Brothers of Italy, which has post-fascist roots.

In images secretly filmed by an undercover journalist, they are seen performing fascist salutes, chanting the Nazi “Sieg Heil” greeting and shouting “Duce” in support of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

At one meeting, a youth party leader appears to explain how the movement plans to fraudulently pocket state funds.

“The national youth movement has never been reported for attacks on left-wing collectives, nor has it ever publicly displayed banners with extremist slogans or references to fascism and Nazism,” Ciriani told parliament.

He brushed off a question from the center-left Democratic Party (PD) on whether the government would “intervene to prevent fascist propaganda,” saying the footage did not necessarily constitute a legal matter.

PD deputy Michela Di Biase said her party was “dramatically concerned” by the report.

“The images that we all saw are an apology for fascism in the full sense of the term. Girls and boys who are formed in the myth of those who have stained the history of our country with blood, persecution,” she said.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni arrives for an informal EU leaders summit in Brussels, on June 17, 2024. (Nick Gammon / AFP)

Asked about the report on Monday, European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer did not mention Italy directly but condemned “fascist symbolism,” saying “We do not believe it is appropriate, we condemn it, we think it is morally wrong.”

Although Italian law bans the apology for — or justification of — Mussolini’s fascism, it is rarely enforced.

Illustrative: People appear to give the banned fascist salute during a rally to commemorate the slaying in 1978 of two members of a neo-fascist youth group in an attack later claimed by extreme-left militants, in Rome, January 7, 2024. (Francesco Benvenuti/LaPresse via AP)

Meloni was a teenage activist with the youth wing of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), formed by supporters of Mussolini after World War II.

The most right-wing leader to take office since 1945, she has sought to distance herself from her party’s legacy without entirely renouncing it.

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