Sunday, 30 May 2010

When Censorship Is Called Privacy

(Graffiti Land, Anti-Censorship Stencil)

[Edoardo Montenegro, Turin] - Freedom of speech is under threat in Italy.

A bill aimed at preventing the press from publishing telephone wiretaps is under debate at the Italian Parliament. Publishers breaking the prohibition might be fined up to € 300,000, while journalists would undergo disciplinary actions and magistrates could be replaced if accused of leaking stories to the press (1).

The decision to introduce the bill by the People of Freedom has raised a determined action by journalists, writers and publishers: more than 180,000 citizens as well as several constitutional lawyers so far have signed a petition against it (2).

A clear attempt to defend the Government from any journalistic inquiry, the law represents a violation of the Italian Constitution: "The press may not be controlled by authorization or submitted to censorship" (3). The privacy of citizens under investigation has actually to be protected, but by no means an ordinary law can violate freedom of speech.

This draft of law notably follows the blast of repeated scandals concerning the Prime Minister and his entourage. Last spring "Repubblica" began an embarassing enquiry concerning the alleged relationship between Silvio Berlusconi and some call girls (4), while a large enquiry over public contracts recently involved the head of the Italian Civil Protection Guido Bertolaso (5) and led to the resignation of the Minister of Economic Development Claudio Scajola.

The bill is actually being softened owing to the partial opposition of the few allies of Gianfranco Fini within the Parliament (6) and probably it will then be rejected by the Constitutional Court. Once the law approved, however, Silvio Berlusconi may take advantage of a substancial forced truce for the rest of the legislature.

Unless you want him to be appointed President of the Italian Republic in 2013, it is time for you to sign this petition on line.


(1) Dino Martirano, "Intercettazioni, ok di Fini. Alfano: 'Trovata la sintesi'",, May 28th 2010.

(2) "La legge sulle intercettazioni",

(3)  "Everyone has the right to freely express thoughts in speech, writing, and by other communication. / The press may not be controlled by authorization or submitted to censorship. / Seizure is permitted only by judicial order stating the reason and only for offences expressly determined by the press law or for violation of the obligation to identify the persons responsible for such offences. / In cases of absolute urgency where immediate judicial intervention is impossible, periodicals may be seized by the judicial police, who must immediately and in no case later than 24 hours report the matter to the judiciary. If the measure is not validated by the judiciary within another 24 hours, it is considered revoked and has no effect. / The law may, by general provision, order the disclosure of financial sources of periodical publications. /  Publications, performances, and other exhibits offensive to public morality are prohibited.  Measures of prevention and repression against violations are provided by law.", Constitution of the Italian Republic, 1948 (art. 21).

(4) "Ten new questions to Silvio Berlusconi",

(5) Dinmore, Guy, "Berlusconi aide in corruption probe",, February 10th 2010.

(6) "Ddl intercettazioni, le modifiche del PDL. 'Atti giudiziari pubblicabili per riassunto'",, May 28th 2010

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