The Italian state broadcaster, Rai, is under pressure to clarify accusations that it attempted to censor a rapper’s condemnation of homophobia.
Fedez blasted politicians with the far-right League, who are blocking a parliamentary vote on an anti-homophobia law, during a concert televised on Rai 3 to mark Labour Day on Saturday.
The rapper said he was asked by Rai to present the text of what he was planning to say before going on stage and was then urged to remove references to the League, the party led by Matteo Salvini.
The case has sparked a political storm in Italy, where several attempts over the past 25 years to enshrine LGBTQ+ rights in law have either been stifled or sabotaged.
Fedez went ahead with his remarks anyway, which included reading out homophobic statements made by League politicians.
After the broadcaster denied censoring him, Fedez released a recorded phone call with a Rai executive who said his comments would be “inappropriate” and advised him to omit the names of the politicians he planned to criticise.
“I am asking you to adapt to a system that you probably don’t get,” the Rai executive is heard saying during the call.
Fedez said on stage: “The management of Rai 3 asked me to omit the names and the parties. I had to fight a bit, a lot, but in the end they gave me the go-ahead to express myself freely,” he said.
Rai has said it will investigate.
Enrico Letta, who leads the centre-left Democratic party, and Giuseppe Conte, the former prime minister who is tipped to take lead of the Five Star Movement, called on Rai to clarify the accusations of censorship and apologise to Fedez.
Salvini distanced himself from the homophobic statements made by the League politicians, saying the comments were “disgusting”, but stressed that the Labour Day concert should not be used “as a left-wing political rally”.
Although Italy approved same-sex civil unions in 2016, the country has lagged behind its EU partners in creating anti-homophobia measures.
The proposed bill, drafted by Alessandro Zan, a gay politician with the Democratic party, would make violence and hate speech against LGBTQ+ and disabled people, as well a misogyny, a crime, with jail terms of up to 18 months and fines of up to €6,000 (£5,212).
The law was passed by the lower house of parliament in November, but its passage through the upper house, or Senate, has been delayed by a change of government and fierce resistance from politicians with the League. The League, which re-entered government in February as part of prime minister Mario Draghi’s broad coalition, argues that the law is not a priority and that it would suppress freedom of expression.
Rights groups receive hundreds of hate crime reports each year but many go unpunished. An attack in February against a gay couple who kissed at a metro station in Rome renewed calls for the urgent approval of the law. In April, Fedez and other celebrities contributed to a fundraising initiative for a 22-year-old woman who was thrown out of home after telling her parents that she was in a relationship with another woman.