Italy's state TV journalists to strike over Meloni government's grip

FILE PHOTO: Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d'Italia) party organizes political festival Atreju in Rome

MILAN (Reuters) - Journalists at Italian state broadcaster RAI will strike next month in protest against the "suffocating control" over their work by Giorgia Meloni's right-wing government, the reporters' trade union Usigrai said on Thursday.

The union criticised political attempts "to turn RAI into a mouthpiece for the government" among a raft of grievances behind the 24-hour strike scheduled for May 6.

Other issues included staff shortages and the cancellation of an agreement over performance bonuses.

Undue political influence over RAI is a long-standing issue in Italy, which re-erupted most recently last weekend over the last-minute cancellation of a talkshow appearance by writer Antonio Scurati.

He had been due to read a monologue marking the 25 April national holiday that celebrates Italy's liberation from fascism, in which he criticised Meloni's party for not repudiating its "post-Fascist past".

RAI officials and Meloni denied censoring Scurati's monologue, with the company saying it had been pulled for unspecific "editorial reasons".

Meloni, whose Brothers of Italy party traces its roots back to wartime dictator Benito Mussolini's fascists, has decried all forms of totalitarianism and spoken of her aversion to fascism. However she avoids defining herself as "anti-fascist", despite frequent calls for her to do so.

RAI is at the heart of Italy's spoils system, and successive governments hand out top jobs there to reward loyal proteges. Its board members, appointed by parliament and the government, are picked according to their party affiliation.

Proposals to make the broadcaster more independent have been discussed for years but never achieved results.

Since Meloni took office in 2022 several high profile executives and presenters have left RAI lamenting government interference, and critics have expressed alarm over legislation proposed by Brothers of Italy to increase sanctions for defamation.

Unirai, a smaller union of RAI journalists, said they would not join next month's strike, calling it a "political" protest.

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina, editing by Gavin Jones and David Evans)