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Defamation in Italy: a draft law to be changed. Trio call

This article is signed by Frank La Rue (ONU), Dunja Mijatović (OSCE), Nils Muižnieks (Commissioner for Human Right). From Il Corriere della Sera, 8 June 2014
This article is signed jointly by Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human RightsBy Dunjia Mjatovic

When Parliament started reviewing the legislation on defamation last October, there were great hopes that Italy finally would succeed in carrying out a long overdue legal reform and strengthening media freedom in the country. Regrettably eight months later, the new draft law still falls short of both national and international standards and the whole reform process appears to be stuck in the Senate. The current version of the draft still includes the possibility to file penal suits for defamation, increases monetary fines and lacks effective deterrent measures to prevent the abuse of the law by the plaintiffs.

 

The current legal framework criminalising defamation has led to Italy losing court cases in international tribunals and receiving repeated criticism, especially because of prison sentences handed down to journalists. Already in 1984, this anomaly was exposed by the Italian Court of Cassation. Since then, Italy has been regularly condemned by the Strasbourg Court for violating the right to freedom of expression enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights because of disproportionate criminal sanctions in defamation cases.

Meanwhile the instrumental use of defamation suits and claims for damages continues to hamper media freedom in Italy, as documented by the long list of journalists targeted by spurious legal actions published by Ossigeno per l’Informazione, an observatory which carries out valuable awareness raising work on threats against journalists in the country.

We, our predecessors and other bodies of the Council of Europe, OSCE and the United Nations, have called on the Italian authorities for decades to reform anachronistic legislation which stifles criticism and muzzles the media toward a modern set of provisions which would strengthen free expression by removing prison sentences and excessive fines. If the latest draft law…  READ THE WHOLE TEXT

See also The Guardian: Press freedom trio call for reform of Italy’s draft defamation law

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