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President Napolitano visits ANSA to see new website

Warns policymakers against 'groundless' spending cuts

26 March, 20:02
President Napolitano visits ANSA to see new website (ANSA) - Rome, March 26 - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Wednesday said news agencies were "essential".

Speaking at ANSA headquarters in Rome for a preview of its new website, the head of State said such outlets were "indispensable" to guaranteeing quality news coverage. Napolitano was welcomed by ANSA Chairman Giulio Anselmi, Editor-in-Chief Luigi Contu and Chief Executive Giuseppe Cerbone.

The website of Italy's leading agency will highlight news in real time, 24 hours a day, with in-depth coverage, a stronger multimedia emphasis, and greater attention to social media. Napolitano also urged journalists not to ignore good news. "You have to report the good with the bad, without worrying about what's popular or the most sensational; worry only about what's newsworthy," he said.

Senate Speaker Pietro Grasso, Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin and Environment Minister Gianluca Galletti were among the guests at the presentation of the portal later in the day.

Grasso described ANSA as "an indispensable tool for news and work".

"It is not possible to understand reality with low levels of information," he added.

"Correct news enables the public to find their way and orientate their political views. The provision of news enriches democracy".

Among the many famous Italians to send messages to ANSA for the new site was AS Roma captain and former Italy striker Francesco Totti.

"Good luck for the site and be sure to stay on the story," Totti said. Napolitano, meanwhile, used his visit to urge politicians to make "targeted" cuts amid an ongoing spending review to shore up as much as five billion euros in public money this year. The head of State noted what he deemed "a very big issue: the transition from cuts known to be absolutely groundless" to cuts deemed a "priority". Since being instated last month, the government of Premier Matteo Renzi is aiming to jumpstart the sclerotic economy out of its slow recovery from the worst recession since World War II. In addition to pledging over 12 billion euros in personal income and business tax cuts, Renzi has authorized a spending czar to locate billions in expenses deemed to be not a priority.

Cuts could apply to salaries of civil-sector managers, top-tier pensions, bloat in the healthcare sector, unnecessary military outlays and red tape in general.

Renzi must be careful not to make any false moves, in light of rising anti-austerity rancor throughout Italy and the rest of Europe, which is bracing for far-right and anti-establishment victories in European Parliament elections in May. Italy has already endured sweeping austerity cuts amid the sovereign-debt crisis, most of which came during the premiership of Mario Monti, an economics professor and former European commissioner brought in by Napolitano to keep Italy's soaring debt costs from spiraling out of control in a Greece-like financial meltdown. Following his ouster in late 2012, austerity-weary voters turned out in large numbers to support the maverick 5-Star Movement (M5S) of Beppe Grillo, a comedian-turned-politician known for his iconoclastic take on traditional government. Using Grillo's blog as the fulcrum of the movement, the M5S did remarkably well and forced a three-way tie at general elections last February. Their refusal to form an alliance with any other party forced parliament into two months of deadlock. In addition to the M5S, Renzi must worry about the regionalist Northern League, which resents Rome for levying taxes on the affluent north for programs and policies it believes are often corrupt. On Wednesday, Renzi was quick to back Napolitano's urging to avoid "groundless" spending cuts. "That principle is absolutely sacrosanct, I agree completely," said Renzi.