Latest Drug War News

GoodShop: You Shop...We Give!

Shop online at and a percentage of each purchase will be donated to our cause! More than 600 top stores are participating!

The Internet Our Website

Global and National Events Calendar

Bottoms Up: Guide to Grassroots Activism

Prisons and Poisons

November Coalition Projects

Get on the Soapbox! with Soap for Change

November Coalition: We Have Issues!

November Coalition Local Scenes

November Coalition Multimedia Archive

The Razor Wire
Bring Back Federal Parole!
November Coalition: Our House

Stories from Behind The WALL

November Coalition: Nora's Blog

October 10, 2006 - The Guardian (UK)

Italian TV Show On Drug-Taking MPs Pulled From Schedules

By Barbara McMahon

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

A television programme that purports to show widespread drug use among Italy's MPs was scrapped before transmission last night amid uproar over both the results and the methods used to entrap the politicians.

In a classic sting operation some 50 politicians were fooled into thinking they were being interviewed about aspects of next year's draft budget, currently before parliament. Instead, a make-up artist with a satirical TV show swabbed their eyebrows to get a sample of their perspiration, which was then tested for traces of cannabis and cocaine.

Twelve allegedly tested positive for cannabis and four for cocaine, all apparently taken in the 36 hours before being approached.

Although the 16 have not been named, Le Iene (The Hyenas), well-known for spoofs that embarrass public figures, was cancelled over claims that the privacy of the politicians had been invaded.

Davide Parenti, head of the programme team, was angry that the show had been axed and denied that anyone's privacy had been invaded. He said the samples taken from the MPs had been gathered without their names being attached and the programme had not planned to identify anyone. The politicians would have been seen in shadow, with their voices camouflaged.

"The spirit of the programme is not to persecute any one person but to be the mirror of Italy." He said the results of the tests were "in line with national statistics" which show drug use is common in Italy.

Italy's politicians reacted angrily to the stunt, however, and many questioned the accuracy of the tests. The former president of the lower house, Pierferdinando Casini, said: "The value of this experiment is precisely zero." He added that the problem of drug use was nothing to joke about.

Paolo Gambescia of the Olive party said: "Even if the names aren't revealed, this makes us all suspects."

Italo Bocchino of the rightwing National Alliance called for the destruction of the samples taken from MPs. He said programme makers should be "severely punished for being in illegal possession of the DNA of 50 parliamentarians".

But the rightwing politician Alessandra Mussolini demanded that the names of the MPs be made public: "Enough of double standards. If there is a law that punishes the use of drugs in this country it is not right that politicians should take them. What example does this give to our young people, what does this do to the credibility of parliamentarians?"

A leftwing MP, Franco Grillini, one of the MPs interviewed by the programme makers, who purported to represent Fox TV, said he was not among those who tested positive, because the last time he smoked cannabis was when he was 16. "I knew something was suspect as soon as I was approached by the TV crew. The girl had something hidden in her hand when she wiped my brow," he said. "It was obvious they weren't in the least interested in talking about the finance laws because they didn't listen to what I had to say."

He said he had no idea if the tests -- conducted with a device called Drugswipe, which can be bought on the internet and is used by German and Swiss police -- were reliable.

Asked about drug-taking among Italian MPs, he said he knew politicians who smoked cannabis in their own homes. "In my opinion the idea of one parliamentarian in three who has consumed some type of drug, above all light ones, is realistic. On cocaine, frankly, I don't know. It's more of a rightwing thing."

Italian politicians have a long history of drug misdemeanours. In 2003 the former prime minister Emilio Colombo admitted that he had purchased cocaine after his drug dealer was arrested but said it was for "therapeutic purposes".

Last year, during a debate on Italy's drug law, former deputy prime minister Gianfranco Fini admitted having smoked a joint once while he was on holiday in Jamaica; Pierferdinando Casini also said he had tried the drug, prompting former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to joke: "While those two were taking drugs, I was working."

Le Iene is shown on Italia 1, a channel owned by the Berlusconi family. Last night's show had been due to open a new season of the cult TV programme, which has gained a big following in Italy.

For the latest drug war news, visit our friends and allies below

We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.

The Drug Policy Alliance
Drug Reform Coordination Network
Drug Sense and The Media Awareness Project

Working to end drug war injustice

Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Questions or problems? Contact