Italian Journalists Strike In Face Of New Law Mandating Jail For Defamation

I recently wrote an article how defamation and other laws were being used in the West to curtail free speech. We have another such example out of Italy. I have previously criticized the defamation laws in Italy which include prosecutions of criminal defendants and their families for criticizing police or prosecutors. Now, Italian journalists are on strike after politicians pushed forward a new law that would mandate jail for those who defame people in their stories — most obviously, the politicians themselves.

The Italian Senate passed an amendment to a bill that would set a maximum sentence of a year in jail for anyone convicted of defamation, while editors-in-chief and managing editors face a maximum fine of 50,000 euros ($64,400) or 20,000 euros respectively. Recently, Alessandro Sallusti, editor-in-chief of the newspaper owned by four-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s brother, was sentenced to 14 months in prison under such a law. There was hope that the case would prompt a reduction in such sentences — though a complete bar on such prosecutions should have been the legislative response. Instead, after a series of recent scandals embarrassed legislators, they actually decided to increase the criminal penalties for journalists.

The law is an outrage against both free speech and the free press. Worst still, this attack on the free press will also hamper efforts to fight corruption and poor management in the Italian government. These politicians are striving to create a chilling effect on those who would investigate and implicate them in corrupt practices. This is precisely what the United States Supreme Court sought to avoid in limiting defamation in the United States in New York Times v. Sullivan where it required public officials (and later extended the standard to public figures) to show actual malice (or knowing falsehood or reckless disregard of the truth) to hold others for defamation. The Court sought to protect “a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.” This allows reporters and others to sometimes be wrong: “That erroneous statement is inevitable in free debate, and that it must be protected if the freedoms of expression are to have the “breathing space” that they ‘need . . . to survive.'”

The erosion of free speech among our allies in the West is continuing unabated. The cost to liberty is difficult to overstate. Civil libertarians globally need to join to resist these attacks on journalists, dissidents, and citizens.

Source: Yahoo

13 thoughts on “Italian Journalists Strike In Face Of New Law Mandating Jail For Defamation

  1. The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Turley Blog is a friend of Emerson. Proving his case daily. ;)

  2. A very worthy call to arms from our leader! Looking @ it from an inside Italian baseball perspective, this may also be a slap @ the Berlusconi media empire.

  3. Whoever jails acts like the mob who arrested Jesus doing to him what Jesus would never do to anyone. Don’t people know that if Jesus arrested anyone he would have lost the battle with the devil? Do people even think about that?

  4. corruption seems to run deep in Italy. Our professor is most absolutely correct about the long term effects on making criminal prosecution available to silence dissent or the duty the media owes the public.

    Even if this was contained at a local level there is the availabilty of the internet for others outside the country to report the issue so it is not going to go away and the politicians are fools to think they can suppress it. That does not mean they should be allowed to suppress, there can often be no substitute for the local news and its access to the local issues.

    Seems there will always be a need for the underground press.

  5. Italy has been turning it’s government over about every 18 months to 2 years for much of my life. It has been a really unstable Parliamentary system.

    “Anyone still think censorship is a good idea?” You can give an opinion on that if and only if you have a clear understanding of what censorship actually is, and in this case, by luck, it is actually censorship. You have no standing, given you’re misunderstanding, to ask the question, but like a stopped clock you have two chances per day to be right (or one if you go by the 24-hour clock that I’ve used since I was 19).

    How are your kids.

  6. Censorship is telling others what they cannot say, read or think either formally or informally.

    You know.

    Like you like to do to others, Ariel.

  7. Hi, Gene,
    “Censorship is telling others what they cannot say, read or think either formally or informally.” Oh, god (lower case meant), that is so juvenile a definition to make me think of Asimov’s critique of the creationist concept of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, something best left in Kindergarten.

    It isn’t the telling, as I grind my teeth, it’s the stopping, and you have to have the power to stop, from saying, reading, or thinking (although stopping people from thinking is really hard but I assume you’ve given it effort since you believe people can be stopped from thinking). You and I can tell each other to do whatever, or to think whatever, and we’ll both ignore each other because we have no power over each other. I tell you to stop commenting now, and I mean now, thus you have been censored. You are being repressed. Prefer the rabbit or the hot nuns? Your choice, but I still repress you.

    Censorship has to have power, but even there we distinguish between private and public. Professor Turley gave notice to a commenter using pig, no one called him a censor unless I missed a comment. Do you want to call Professor Turley a censor because he doesn’t like the use of pig? By your definition, he’s done it, and by mine he certainly could be doing it if I didn’t distinguish between private and public. I only make that distinction because of guns, mail delivery, and not finding that book in my local book store.

    Ever heard of Cleland, Joyce, and Miller? Now that was censorship.

    I do think they’d all go for the hot nuns rather than the rabbit, but I won’t speak for your choice. Okay, likely, if you push me, I’d say you’d go for the Frenchman on the ramparts, if only for identification.

    I’d be more serious if I hadn’t had to read “Censorship is telling others what they cannot say, read or think either formally or informally.” Do you mean in Tux or Jeans? I prefer Armani in-between, right number of pleats, tight waist, but plenty of butt and leg room, a cuff on the leg and it breaks well with a marine slant. Oh, wait, you weren’t writing about clothes. Who could tell?

    I’m formally telling you to stop commenting. I’ll even tell you informally. Yet, my attempts at censorship fail. I guess we’ll just have to argue and tell each other all sorts of things.

    Moreover, my bad, I skipped Kindergarten, so I missed your argument. Luckily, and my good, I missed that damn creationist argument about the 2nd Law. I imagine it was a lot of cherry-picking. Damn, you think Darwin might have influenced them? I mean, if they cherry-picked from him he must have been an influence….

    Carry on Crusader Rabbit, or are you White Fang?

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