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The ‘Charter of prison and punishment’ to protect the weak in the world of newspapers

The National Council of journalists last week signed the ‘Charter of prison and punishment’, a code of ethics and conduct for information operators dealing with news of people deprived of their liberty, a code which has been adopted since 2007 by the Orders of Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, Veneto and then those of Basilicata, Sicily, Liguria, Sardinia and Puglia.

At the heart of the Charter there are two principles: the inadmissibility of ignorance and the inevitability of the right to forget. “The first – said Gerardo Bombonato, president of the Order of Emilia-Romagna – enshrines that who writes or speaks about prison should know the laws. The second principle concerns the right not to be exposed indefinitely to further damage that the routine publication or non-cancellation of a news item from the web may do to honor and reputation. Of course this does not affect historical facts of great importance, such as the murder of Aldo Moro, and obviously the right to report is restored in the case the issue regains the public’s attenion.”

On the right to forget the European Commission is preparing a Directive, especially for what concerns the network, since “the web does not forget anything”: the Regulation that the EU is preparing will provide sanctions of up to €500,000.

The approach to news related to those who are in prison, as well as other vulnerable people in society, such as immigrants, the marginalized, and refugees, “it is easy to fall into stereotypes and it must be avoided. Correct language by journalists is important and – warns Bombonato, announcing that – the ‘Charter of prison and punishment’ will become a subject for the entry examination to the profession.”

The president of the Order of Journalists of Lombardy, Letizia Gonzales, at the first public presentation of the Charter in Milan, said that: “this is an attempt to respond to some sort of barbarism within the journalistic profession”.

And Paolo Butturini, Secretary of the Roman Press who last November organized a day of debate on how to talk of prison in the newspapers, also said that: “we need to develop the culture of information upon which the rights of citizenship grow”.

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