Threatened journalists. Parliament discusses anti-mafia commission proposals
Monday, February 29 in the House the report by the Hon. Claudio Fava on the state of information in Italy, unanimously approved in August 2015
Update/ Thursday, March 3, 2016 the Chamber of Deputies with a historically important vote (with 381 votes in favor, that is, with the unanimous consent of those present) approved the text of the Report of the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission “on the state of information and the plight of the threatened journalists by the mafia “. The Report develops data and proposals made by the Italian NGO Ossigeno per l’Informazione and invites the parliament and the government to introduce some urgent legislative changes, necessary for a better protection of journalists and of the right of expression and the press.
Six months after the approval, it arrives to the Assembly of Deputies the report of the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission on “the state of information and on the condition of journalists threatened by the mafia” (Read the text Doc. XXIII, n. 6) a document of great importance that describes the most serious difficulties of investigative journalism and Italian journalists who report information on organized crime, on corruption and on unwelcome news to the powerful.
On Monday, February 29 at 15.00, in the hall of the Chamber of Deputies, there will be the general discussion on the analysis of the situation and proposals to address the problem.
The debate on the report, drawn up by the Hon. Claudio Fava, vice president of the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission, will be completed in the following days by a vote. Among the proposals, there is the introduction of the offense for being an obstacle to information and the punishment for the so called “machinery of mud” with a specific crime, distinct from defamation.
The report also addresses the issue of financial liability of the publisher, currently not regulated, for the expenses incurred by the authors of articles published, for the legal defense, in the face of lawsuits and actions for damages. One chapter is devoted to the particular condition of the juridical and financial weakness of journalists not fully employed (the freelance). The report refers to dozens of serious incidents in recent years and to data from the Observatory “Ossigeno per l’Informazione“, which has listed 2750 Italian journalists affected by threats, acts of intimidation and retaliation, and abuse since 2006.
The report has an important political significance, since it was approved on August 5, 2015 by the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission by a unanimous vote, at the end of twelve months of investigation conducted with dozens of hearings and with the advice of the observatory “Ossigeno per l’Informazione, which, on top of explaining and illustrating the statistics on journalists threatened in Italy, it also conducted for the Commission a research entitled “the Mafia-Information antithesis” that deepens the understanding of the phenomenon and presents proposals to strengthen the protection of journalists handling the information on the Mafia and other news of significant interest that expose them to intimidation, retaliation, abuse permitted by law (such as specious litigations) and oppressive behavior for which it is no kind of punishment is expected.
The Commission’s proposals are of great interest. The most important is the criminal protection of the right to inform, speech, and expression affirmed by Article 21 of the Constitution: today, those who break or hinder this right does not incur any sanction, unlike the other rights recognized by the Constitution. Another proposal of great interest regards the reformulation of the libel offense: to punish with two separate offenses of accidental defamation (by mistake or negligence) and intentional defamation, made with malice, with the knowledge to disseminate false information.