Lunedì, 22 Ottobre 2018

Italy's proposed libel law meets strong media opposition

English
© ANSA

(ANSA) – Rome, Oct 24 – A proposed libel law introduced in
Italy's Upper House Wednesday stirred up a frenzy of protest
among media leaders and risks causing splits in the political
parties sustaining the technocrat government of Premier Mario
Monti.
The new law, which will get a reading in the Lower House
next week, seeks to eliminate jail terms in cases of libel,
replacing them with – among others – hefty fines and the right
of the offended party to immediately get his or her side of the
story out in the accused publication free from any editorial
oversight.
Warning that the proposed law will lead to a curtailing of
press freedom, Franco Siddi, head of Italy’s national press
federation, said: "We'll repeat it one more time: on the freedom
of the press, on the right to report, on the right of the
citizens to be informed we can't be faced down by anyone who
proposes restrictions of any kind".
He added that the law resembled one from the era of former
premier Silvio Berlusconi, Monti's predecessor, who in his day
also attempted to pass media-restricting laws.
Referring to the heavy fines and damages publications could
incur in libel cases under the proposed new law, Giulio Anselmi,
the president of the national journalists' federation, said:
"Today these norms are absurd and dangerous as they can
condition the survival of many newspapers and reveal an absolute
disdain for press freedom. It is to be hoped that the
(parliamentary) debate will radically alter it".
According to the proposed law, fines of between 5,000 and
100,000 euros can be awarded to anyone who has won a libel case.
In an interview with ANSA, Carlo Federico Grosso, a
criminal lawyer, described the proposed law as "pure folly".
"Eliminating prison sentences is absolutely reasonable in
terms of criminal policy, but the rest is an attack against
press freedom," Grosso said, adding that prison sentencing for
press crimes has "no right to exist, considering that detention
should only be used for the gravest crimes".
Grosso also takes issue with the proposed fines, saying
they risk becoming tools for "intimidation", as small
publications might be forced into bankruptcy.
He adds that large publications might also "face
difficulties and will intimidate editors and reporters in order
to avoid risky reporting which could lead to libel suits".
The final law is likely to look very different from the
version that made its way to the Senate Wednesday considering
that senators had already tabled some 140 amendments.

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