Despite menacing noises from Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's leading centre-left daily has refused to stop demanding answers to 10 questions put to him over his relationship with a Neapolitan teenager, Noemi Letizia. No other democratic leader could have got away with ignoring the questions surrounding this friendship in the way Mr Berlusconi has. His explanation of how he befriended the Letizia family does not hold water. He has not addressed his young friend's claim that he was going to smooth her path into politics or show business. Nor has there been any explanation of the latest revelation that the 18-year-old Ms Letizia is the owner of four houses. This is about more than media prurience. His wife has said she can no longer stay with a man who "frequents minors" and that he is "not well". La Repubblica has noted that Ms Letizia's account of her birthday gifts from the man she calls "papi" (daddy) implies they were friends when she was 15. The press remains one of the few forces of critical appraisal in a society where almost all the television channels are answerable to Mr Berlusconi. So far, his only nod towards accountability has been to go on a talkshow whose hand-wringingly obsequious presenter let him deliver a self-justificatory monologue. But when a reporter from La Repubblica tackled him this week, Mr Berlusconi lost his rag. "What right have you to ask?" he stormed. The answer in a democratic society must be: "All the right in the world." La Repubblica is ploughing a lonely furrow and deserves support.
From the Guardian