Behind the scenes of Mission

8 Ago


First articles of what is now the famous reality humanitarian show appeared on Info.Cooperazione and African Voices, the original marketing operation has triggered a wave of outrage on various websites related to the world of Cooperation.

The petition action to lock the television program: RAI not to air the reality show “The Mission”, organized by Change.Org in less than three days has reached the quota of 30,000 signatures. This unexpected accession is a symptom of a general indignation that goes far beyond those employed in the field of cooperation, involving a much wider audience.

Important Italian NGOs are distancing themselves and openly criticize the initiative stressing that it is not the best way to make the public aware of the dramatic reality of the Italian refugees in the world. The news has even made the leap in quality, as they say among us journalists, passing by the “cries” of the web to the real newspapers . The first to deal with it, breaking the cautious and dutiful silence waiting to see if the squeal is really a story, were La Stampa on his shows page , and  Il Fatto Quotidiano, followed by La Repubblica and L’Espresso
Mission is progressively becoming a political case, ending up in the Vigilance Commission. The President of the House Laura Boldrini through a letter addressed to La Repubblica takes publicly distanced itself from the transmission inviting authors to “avoid instrumentalization and spectacularisation.”

Face of this mediatic Caporetto, after the past two weeks of the publication of the news, but not on gossip web site but on the prestigious Info.Cooperazione, Intersis has felt compelled to offer the public his version of the facts, breaking with the initial the silent, obviously counterproductive. The answer to doubts and misgivings, published on the website of the NGO is signed by none other than Marco Rotelli, the Secretary General of Intersos, belonging to the new generation of cooperating that is gradually replacing the generation of the first hour and founder of the NGO in Rome between which the President Nino Sergi. To strengthen the article / editorial Intersos e il nuovo programma televisivo Marco Rotelli has served as a panelist in the program broadcast by Radio 24 Nessun luogo è lontano.

In both occasions Intersos highlights its continued commitment in more than 30 countries around the world, emphasizing the operation and action, the unique features of Intersos, capable of saving lives in many contexts, often dramatic.

The list of undisputed merits of humanitarian work, which occupy three-quarters of the intervention of the Secretary-General published on the website of the NGO, the space finally leave the official explanation that prompted this historic and esteemed Italian NGO to join the initiative RAI – UNHCR Italy of Mission, emphasized during the next radio broadcast.

Calling this communication experiment, in perfect line with RAI 1, Intersos to make public its awareness of exposing themselves to criticism and the risk of provoking question marks and reflections. From the words of Rotelli is understood that the decision to cooperate in the creation of the first reality humanitarian show in  Italy has not been influenced by easy enthusiasm or possibility of increasing the fundrising, but a considered and careful analysis.

Faced with repeated accusations of silence Intersos clarifies: “There was really nothing to say“, informing that the program, which is absolutely not a vulgar reality show, as stated by Rotelli, is preparatory phases, constantly building and “so is not possible divulge how much it is not practical without the risk of causing gross errors of interpretation, with comments at information incomplete and thus incorrect.

Yet the emergence of new elements and contradictions lead to the opposite conclusion. On Mission there is still a lot to say, beginning on the conduct of the preparatory phases of the transmission.

The first and evident contradiction is the insurance given by Intersos at the Italian public opinion that it is only a preparatory phase in which nothing concrete has been achieved, making it impossible to disseminate and interpret. Yet in the summer of 2012 was made ​​the Zero episode made ​​in the  IDPs camp to Yambio, Western Equatoria, South Sudan, managed from Intersos with the participation of the pair of VIP: Michele Cucuzza and Barbara De Rossi.

In July 2013, on the basis of our information, it was realized the episode of Mission concerning the scope of IDPs Congolese Duruma, in the district of Ituri, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo with the participation of the pair of VIP: Paola Barale and Emmanuele Filiberto Di Savoia. To date we do not know the positive or negative effects on refugees because, despite being actors of transmission is denied them, for obvious reasons of language barriers and care of their conditionthe possibility of express opinions, being bound in the classic and deplorable role of without a word.

Zero on the episode, we do not know many details, we only know of a video ever broadcast by RAI where Intersis seems to have a copy and has allowed the consultation to its staff only inside its head office in Rome prohibiting public dissemination as we understand in a communication from the head office towards its staff employed abroad.

In contrast, some news about the episode in the Congo, have been leaked.

At the beginning of July Intersos gives to Mauro Celladin, retired former employee of the trucking public Padua and longtime collaborator of the NGO, the organization of all logistics for the construction of the episode of Mission at the refugee camp Duruma in the district of Ituri, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Celladin, an expert of Africa, is not new to this job also conducted on the occasion of the episode Zero in Yambio, South Sudan in 2012. The mission is composed, in addition to expert logistician, by a television troops of 14 people Dinamo Italia Srl, the agency designated by RAI for the realization of the reality, two representatives of UNHCR Italy: Laura Lucci and Alonzo Vittorio  and two VIP protagonists of the episode: Paola Barale and Emmanuele Filiberto Di Savoia, a public relations manager of the office of Intersos: Paola Amicucci.

The original road map plan of reaching the Congolese  location through the “wildSouth Sudan through the main road, which leaves from the capital Juba, comes to the town of Yambio (Western Equatoria State) and reaches the border of South Sudanese Ezo. The original plan will be changed for reasons still unknown, spite regular visa application submitted to the South Sudanese authorities, including those for the two VIP, Barale and Di Savoia. The troops of the film Dinamo Italia Srl will reach Duruma via Uganda while Celledin, Amicucci and two representatives of UNHCR Italy via South Sudan.

To record the episode of Mission in Congo, Dinamo Italia Srl, had to ask permit film and press accreditation, as required by Congolese law, issued by the competent authority: Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and the Ministry of Information. Being a work commissioned by the Italian State Television with patronage of UNHCR, require such permits, after right clarification of the humanitarian objectives of the transmission, it was a necessary both for the respect of a Sovereign State is the current situation of instability that exists east of Congo. The permit obtained through official channels and the support of the Italian Embassy in Kinshasa would have avoided the possibility of the emergence of doubts and suspicion on the part of the Congolese Government to safeguard the transparency of the work of UNHCR and RAIand promoters of the initiative and the safety of the Italian staff directly involved in the distant African country into civil war.

The received information highlighting that the normal bureaucratic process authorization request to film Mission has not been followed. Documents of our knowledge show that the only obtained permission to shoot Mission was issued by an officer of the district of Arts and Cultural Reform of the Bunia city (of which depends administratively Duruma) of the Province of North Kivu: Florente Mahamba. This is a generic annual authorization to exercise unspecified film activities, issued to the Head of Mission in the Congo Intersis: Jens Shumaker, July 4, 2013.


During this period of intense military activity, especially concentrating in the districts of Masisi and Rutshuru, bordering the district of Ituri, the Congolese authorities are particularly attentive to issue permits for journalists and foreign television network. The TV and newspapers Ugandans and Kenyans like NTV, KBC, Daily Monitor and Daily Nation, not to mention the international information networks such as CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera, are subject to endless bureaucracy and careful inquiries before getting the accreditation and permits for their news reports and television in order to safeguard both the image of the Congolese government is the safety of regional and international media.

Different questions that arise spontaneously. Generic authorization of a district official obtained by the Italian NGO was enough to make the Congolese government aware of the presence of troops sent with Rai television and the support of UNHCR in the town of Duruma to film the conditions of the Congolese refugees in because of the ongoing fighting between government forces and the rebellion of the March 23 Movement in the nearby district of Rhutsuru? The Italian Embassy in Kinshasa has been informed of this initiative, offering the possibility of giving useful tips and valuable information about security in the east of the country? UNHCR Italy informed the competent authorities of the mission of the United Nations in the region first of all, the UN Peace Mission in Congo: MONUSCO to provide security? Were heard as the other humanitarian agencies and international NGOs operating in the region to know their opinion on the initiative, a practice common to all NGOs to ensure transparency and coordination of activities? Intersos has previously shared this marketing initiative with humanitarian funding agencies involved in the region: USAID, ECHO, Italian Cooperation and others in order to collect opinions and advice? The communication agency Dinamo Italia Srl, RAI and two representatives of UNHCR Italy (Vittorio Alonzo and Laura Lucci) present during the recording of the episode of Mission does not have questioned how you obtain your permission before we started shooting?

Failure to comply with bureaucratic process remains unexplained as Intersis and UNHCR should know the practices laid down by the Government of Congo thanks to their decades of presence in the area and, in the case of Intersis, the precious experience on the ground of its regional office in Nairobi, Kenya , engaged in a continuous and meticulous monitoring of humanitarian activities in Congo, Somalia and South Sudan.

This shocking episode was followed by an operation of censorship. After five days of first item-criticism on the transmission of Info.Cooperazione and appeared to coincide with the release of the article published in African Voices on the same subject, July 29, 2013 all cooperating Intersos engaged in missions abroad shall receive in different languages ​​a circular with the following subject: important notice co-operation with UNHCR and Italian Television.signed by Cesare Fermi, responsible Intersos Rome Fundraising and Institutional Communication.

The circular informs the spread of misleading news appeared in some “gossip blog” relating to the transmission Mission. Confirming the news of the realization of the reality, but specifying that it is a Fiction Documentary entirely funded by Ra1 with the participation of UNHCR Italy and Intersos, it is confirmed that the program has not yet been filmed, so any comments or ratings are irrelevant and pretentious. The text contradicts itself  immediately after by stating that the episode Zero the episode was filmed in Yambio in 2012. Cesare Fermi ensures expatriates working in Intersos that the Zero episode was viewings by the operators of the NGO and finding appropriate while being intended for the general public.

Under obvious pressure from the invasive protests in the web, the circular calls on all its employees abroad to not participate in any discussion forums, blogs, Facebook or Twitter friends who have as their subject the transmission Mission. To be more convincing to the circular, in the following paragraph, change the call in an order issued in capital letters (then almost screamed in his face) not to talk to the media, other humanitarian agencies, NGOs, public entities, and even among colleagues, of the transmission pointing out that such an order is imperative. The only possibilities for cooperating InterSoS obtain information are those of the Heads of Mission or contact the Communications Office in Rome. This explains reticence and fears that we found between the expatriate staff Intersis in Congo and South Sudan that we tried to contact them to receive a opinion about Mission.


How to interpret this circular received from expatriates of different nationalities daily involved in the difficult task of humanitarian assistance to refugees and IDPs in difficult conditions and under continuous stress psychophysical subject to all the security risks inherent in this profession, the majority of them not motivated by a pure financial gain related to their performance but by humanitarian ideals and beliefs?

In this atmosphere it seems difficult to realize the wishes of the journalist Giulio Sensi of in the debate broadcast by Radio24: The cooperating might be more players in the production, it could involve local video-makers and practitioners in the implementation,” when the same cooperative is prohibits to express their personal opinions on the topic through a circular dropped from the venue.

In light of this backstory, congratulating took away the President of the House, we can not but agree with the analysis made ​​by Cospe.

“Mission seems produced by the desire to raise awareness. The decline of private donations and public funding, as well as a cutthroat competition among NGOs, seems to be bringing the level of communication of NGOs, as well as major international agencies (UN), a kind of message passed seemed more simple , more emotional and tending to the pietistic to raise funds focusing on concepts such as charity, good works and good will

In spite of all we think it is still possible to backtrack through a self-criticism, dialogue,  the explanation of the thousand “why”and the cancellation of the broadcast schedule RAI autumn of 2013 irrespective of the public funds already committed, acts at this point, dutiful by RAI, UNHCR and Intersos, although it would have been preferable to stop after the interview of Cucuzza Michele and Barbara De Rossi to the weekly Grand Hotel in September 2012 entitled: “How much fear in Africa.”

We were in Africa to make a documentary about the volunteers of Intersos. Then the alarm was triggered by the epidemic of the deadly ebola virus that haunts the region for years, and they have closed their borders. The Farnesina tried our repatriation, we could not even call home. So we decided to make ourselves useful by helping children,” says De Rossi, interviewed by the weekly gossip

Aside from the outrage over racist thinking inherent in the interview: consider a continent social and economic emerging as Africa the trash of the world inhabited by the waifs subhuman, and the false news of the epidemic of Ebola in South Sudan at that time (cases were recorded in previous months only in Congo and Uganda), the interview given by the two Testimonial of the Zero episode of the reality show humanitarian was already a year ago, the evidence proof and public of the cut dustbin of Mission, making it even more serious comment made by Eugenio Melandri on Facebook one of the most famous representatives of Catholic international voluntary in Italy: “After reading the specification of Intersos, I remain of the idea that such a program is, to say the least, pornographic. You can not instrumentalize the poverty and suffering.”

Spite of all this horror RAI, UNHCR and Intersos have decided at any cost to continue embracing the motto The end justifies the means.
The worst service given to our NGOs in the world.

Carlo Cattaneo
Rome, Italy



Una Risposta to “Behind the scenes of Mission”

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