Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, a media mogul whose family owns the country's largest private broadcaster, has complained that country’s TV is against him.
In comments that made front-page headlines Monday, Berlusconi claimed he is the victim of left-leaning comedians who systematically attack him and his conservative government.
The comments refueled debate over the role of the media just months away from a general election, which is expected in April.
They also came days after a highly controversial TV show on state-run RAI featured a fierce Berlusconi critic, angering many of the premier's conservative allies.
"It's only the latest episode in the system of communications _ TV but also print that has systematically attacked the action of the government and of the premier since 2001," Berlusconi said in comments offered for a book written by a top talk show host and reported Monday by the premier's Forza Italia party Web site.
Berlusconi was elected to the premiership in 2001.
"All you have to do is watch RAI channels to see jokes against the premier," he said, singling out several comedians. "I am not demanding a news system that praises us. But I denounce the fact that opposition falsifications about our work are presented as truthful without any dispute."
The comments drew criticism from the center-left.
"To think that Berlusconi is the victim of a media conspiracy is frankly ridiculous," said Piero Fassino, an opposition leader.
Berlusconi's business empire includes the nation's three largest private TV networks. As premier, he wields indirect control over the three state TV networks.
Ever since Berlusconi became premier, opposition politicians have accused him of having too much influence on the country's media. Berlusconi has denied any conflict of interest, insisting he never calls the directors at his media empire's networks or at RAI to comment on program content, reports the AP.