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‘Copy Cat’ Suicides Lead to Calls for Media Self-Censorship

September 11, 1990

ROME (AP) _ A series of copy-cat suicides in Italy has led to calls for the media to limit coverage of such deaths.

One major newspaper said it would publish only scant reports from now on, and the state-run RAI-TV said it was limiting coverage to late-night newscasts, which have the fewest viewers.

Since the beginning of September, 10 people have taken their lives in a similar fashion - running a tube from the exhaust pipe into their car and turning on the ignition.

Newspapers have paid considerable attention to the suicides, examining the victims’ pasts and editorializing on the ills of modern Italian society that might lead someone to commit suicide.

In one of the cases, police said they found a newspaper opened to the story of a previous suicide on the seat next to the victim.

After the ninth suicide last weekend, the Rome newspaper Il Tempo announced in a front-page editorial that it would limit further reporting on suicides to a few lines on an inside page.

″The information blackout ... can help to break the tragic and repetitive chain,″ Il Tempo said.

Indro Montanelli, editor of the Milan newspaper Il Giornale, disagreed.

″In principle, there is no news that shouldn’t be published. To write about suicides is dangerous? In that case, we won’t write about rapes, robberies, murders, smoking, terrorism,″ Montanelli said. ″If we follow that logic, we won’t put out newspapers anymore.″

Gianni Rocca, deputy editor of La Repubblica of Rome, agreed with Montanelli. ″For how long would we have to be silent about such news? For a day, a week, for our whole life?″ he said.

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