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Defamation charges are trojan horses of censorship

In many countries there are too many loopholes and gaps in the law. We must open our eyes wide to see what is happening

In many countries, even in the free Europe, laws that punish the libel are archaic and allow the power and the powerful to silence newspapers, journalists and bloggers who spread information unwelcome. Some loopholes and gaps in the law allow abuse of libel, abuses easy and hardly avoidable. In these countries, to real threats, people can easily add defamation charges false and baseless, to intimidate journalist, to block news of great public interest, to impose self censorship as well as new forms of censorship.

In Italy these bad things happen for years. Intimidation against journalists made with false charges of defamation are frequent, numerous and alarming. This is clear. Ossigeno per l’Informazione showed it by making public the names of more than two thousand victims. But yet the Parliament does not update the archaic and punitive laws that allow it. In many other countries legislation is similar, it has the same loopholes, it allows the same abuses.

What can we do? Decriminalize libel, repeal the prison sentences are the first things to do. But these changes are not enough. Our eyes are shut in front of what is happening. We must open our eyes wide to see these things. We must remember that the law was created to give precedence to the public interest.

Legal systems clearly distinguish between intentional and unintentional crimes, for istance between “culpable homicide” and manslaughter. And then, why some countries do not distinguish between defamation due to negligence and defamation voluntary, intentional, made with malice? Why in many countries the defamation is always punished as intentional?

When you do all of the same brush you sacrifices the freedom of information. If we really cherish this freedom, we must actively defend and protect it. The law must punish those who deliberately hinders our right to express ourselves and to be informed.

It is strange to say: in Italy and in other countries laws punish those who hinders any right, but not those who obstruct the freedom of information, which is a universal right.

We must open wide our eyes to see these things, we must close that loopholes that allow the abuse, which allow the intimidation and the censorship. We must help the victims of false charges for defamation, we need to help victims resist bullying.

ASP

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