Reporters Without Borders (RWB). Spoof news on Italy that no one corrects
Reporters Without Borders has pushed Italy up in the ranking of press freedom, because of a non-existent “decriminalization of defamation”
Good news is travelling through Europe and the world: Italy, in one sweep, and from one year to the next, has gained nine places in the credited international ranking of the respected association Reporters Without Borders (RWB): from 58th to 47th. Italy thus quits the list of nations with “sensitive issues” relative to press freedom, and enters the list of countries with a “pretty good situation”. Too bad that this improvement is attributed to a fact that does not exist, its unfounded, its simply not true.
RWB explains such a flattering promotion with the fact that the Italian Parliament would be discussing a bill that would decriminalize defamation, even in the aggravating circumstances of committing it through the press. The few or many (?) who still follow with passion and interest the events relating to freedom of the press and the right to inform (and be informed) know that this is not true. What the Chamber of Deputies approved in October, and which the Judiciary Committee of the Senate is now examining, is only the repeal of those bylaws that provide the penalty of imprisonment for journalists convicted of defamation.
The laws in question are Article 595 of the Criminal Code (which provides for up to three years of prison for journalists) and Article 13 of the Press Law of 1948 (which provides for up to six years of imprisonment if the defamation consists in the attribution of a specific fact). Rather heavy fines shall replace the penalty of imprisonment, and these are likely to produce a chilling effect on journalists, editors and publishers and devastating effects on the chancesof survival of newspapers, whose coffers are not particularly full.
To know more on the actual content of the bill being discussed by the Senate, please read the e-book by Ossigeno per L’Informazione and published by Melampus.
Confusing de-criminalization with the avoidance of prison sentences is really too much, especially given the fact that the confounded is an authoritative, trusted, credible, and serious organization which enjoys a considerable strength in the setting of an international argument. It would therefore be appropriate that those who have the authority would clarify with RWB the actual state of things, in order to allow said organization to be able to correct an error, which has certainly been committed in good faith, but which is, however, based on not well-informed and perhaps unreliable Italian sources.
And here arises another sore point. In the past few days, following the publication of the RWB report for 2013, some newspapers (albeit quite few) reported the news of the improvement in the ranking of Italy, but without even hinting to the fact that it was construed on a false fact. If we exclude the firm stance of Ossigeno per L’Informazione (statement by the Director Alberto Spampinato, shared by the newsletter of Franco Abruzzo) and a statement/clarification of the Vice-President of the Judiciary Committee of the Senate, Mr Felice Casson, no other voice has been heard in the attempt to recover the truth and put reality with its feet back on the ground. Obviously, it may be probable or possible that these voices were raised, maybe high and strong, and which we were unable to hear due to acoustic deficiencies. In case it were so, we immediately excuse ourselves for our ignorance.
Nonetheless, and to be fair, it needs to be noted that from the analysis of the amendments presented by the Judiciary Committee, only the senator Mr Casson of the Democratic Party did submit a proposal to no longer consider defamation as an offense when committed through the press.
Unfortunately, none of the institutions of the category of journalists seems to have had something to say to RWB for the mistake, and maybe ask for a correction. Why have the Order, FIEG, and the FNSI been silent? And the Italian newspapers? And those associations of journalists who have as a founding principle the defense of the freedom of the press? Because of underestimation? Or because there is no desire to enter a conflict with a well deserving organization like Reporters Without Borders? We do not know what the answers to these questions are or could be. But there is still time and different ways to intervene, with moderation and education. But only to restore the truth: nothing more, nothing less. GM