Incident occurred after football match to raise awareness about violence against women.
Police in Italy have launched an investigation after a female television reporter was molested by a football fan live on air, in a case that has drawn widespread condemnation.
Italian journalist Greta Beccaglia, 27, was reporting from outside a stadium following the Serie A football match between Empoli and Fiorentina on Saturday evening.
During her live report for regional broadcaster Toscana TV, she was groped from behind by a passing spectator.
She called after the man, saying "Excuse me, you can't do this", before other men passed by closely muttering comments and another man stopped to swear into the camera and make a rude hand gesture.
Compounding the situation, her male colleague in the studio, 65-year-old veteran journalist Giorgio Micheletti, was widely accused of downplaying the incident, advising her "not to get mad" over it.
Gravissimo quanto accaduto alla giornalista #GretaBeccaglia, a cui va la mia vicinanza.
Prima le molestie, poi l’umiliazione: “Non prendertela”.
È lo specchio di una società in cui le donne sono costrette a subire e pure a tacere: #questononènormale.
Si apra un’inchiesta. pic.twitter.com/Z14KlEO4GA— laura boldrini (@lauraboldrini) November 28, 2021
The match took place two days after International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women, and the players took to the field in the Castellani Stadium with red marks on their faces to highlight the scourge of domestic abuse and to raise awareness of the anti-stalking hotline 1522.
The match was the centrepiece in a high-profile Serie A campaign called "Give violence against women the red card."
Beccaglia took to Instagram immediately after the incident, which she described as "unacceptable in 2021", and asking her followers if anyone could recognise the football fan who molested her.
Police are also trying to identify the individual at the centre of the harassment case which has been condemned by politicians and the public after footage of the incident went viral.
Beccaglia received solidarity from the president of Tuscany's guild of journalists (ODG), Giampaolo Marchini, who noted that the "worrying episode" took place "in the days when maximum attention is given to the struggle against gender-based violence."
Marchini continued: "The person in the studio, however, instead of condemning the gesture, invited his colleague to 'not be angry'. An incomprehensible attitude. No words of solidarity were heard towards her from the presenter".
He said the ODG "reiterates that the time has come to stop minimising and recalls that violence against women is above all a cultural and social problem".
Micheletti defended his actions, telling FQ Magazine: "I told her not to be angry so as not to panic her. I was not wrong, but now I look like the monster to be pursued".
He told news agency ANSA: "I apologise for the unfortunate words used in the agitated moment of the live broadcast on Saturday. At that moment my only interest was to be of help to Greta. I have always had a great respect for women, in my life and in my professional career".
Reaction from politicians
The assault on Beccaglia has been condemned outright by politicians from across the political spectrum.
“What happened is not acceptable, it cannot be downplayed in any way" - the speaker of the lower house Roberto Fico wrote on Twitter - "It is a real episode of violence that must be condemned without hesitation."
The president of the senate Maria Elisabetta Casellati said: "I hope that the unacceptable harassment on live TV will be prosecuted without hesitation."
"What happened is very serious", said the prominent centre-left politician Laura Boldrini - "the mirror of a society in which women are forced to suffer and also to remain silent: this is not normal."
Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right Fratelli d'Italia (FdI) said the person responsible "must be identified and punished", while the leader of the populist Movimento 5 Stelle, former premier Giuseppe Conte, described the incident as "an ignoble gesture" and "an attack on the freedoms of all women".
Le molestie subite in diretta da #GretaBeccaglia, giornalista di Toscana TV, sono un gesto ignobile, un attacco alle libertà di tutte le donne. Non possiamo rispondere “non te la prendere”. Anzi. Dobbiamo chiarire che “ce la dobbiamo prendere tutti”: https://t.co/sJFj50nBkQ pic.twitter.com/TyVocHVjFy— Giuseppe Conte (@GiuseppeConteIT) November 28, 2021
"This time we saw the harassment live on TV, but think about how many women are forced to suffer it every day on the street, at work, on the bus. Unacceptable incidents that confirm how far there is still to go", Italy's regional affairs minister Mariastella Gelmini wrote on Twitter.
Maria Elena Boschi of the centrist Italia Viva party stated: "Such behaviour is not bravado but harassment. Nobody can take the liberty of touching a woman without her consent".
The incident was also condemned by both Empoli and Fiorentina, with the latter football club contacting Beccaglia to offer authorities any help it can to track down the culprit.
Reaction from Greta Beccaglia
"What happened to me is something that is not acceptable and should not be repeated" - Beccaglia told ANSA - "It was filmed live on TV because I was at work. But unfortunately, as we know, such harassment occurs to other women with the cameras off, that is, without anyone knowing."
"I am receiving many messages of solidarity from fans and ordinary people, but also from well-known personalities who have a very important influence on public opinion and this is a very positive general reaction", she added, however "events like this must never happen again."