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Freedom of the Press. Parliament New and Old Problems That Await to Be Solved in Italy

There are too many threats, spurious lawsuits, and recourse to incarceration of journalists
domande-e-risposteOSSIGENO – Rome, March 14, 2013 – In Italy hundreds of journalists are threatened, intimidated, censored, object of violence, victims of retaliation and serious rights’ abuse and of every form of undue pressure to obstruct information. As a case in point, defamation is punishable with imprisonment; there is a longstanding conflict of interests between politics and publishing; there are weak protections to professional secrecy; it is usually difficult and sometimes impossible to access the documents of the public administration. These are the main problems in Italy that need a solution in order to free the press from a very burdensome influence. Having viewed all this, OSSIGENO will urge members of the new Parliament and the new Government to commit to respond to these problems that are weaken the democratic life.
OSSIGENO believes it is necessary to remark these problems in the aftermath of a heated electoral campaign that has seen numerous incidents of intolerance against journalists. The elections of February 24 and 25 have created an uncertain political framework in which the leader of the emerging political force has accused and attacked journalists and the entire information system.
The main problem that the new government and the new parliament will face is certainly the resolution of the enduring economic crisis. But it’s not possible to return to the path of development without ensuring a full freedom of information. Needed reforms can no longer be postponed if Italy wants to be among the nations where the press is free, a country in which threats, intimidations and subtle forms of pressure against journalists are isolated incidents and not an endemic condition. The founding countries of the European community, all the countries north of the Alps, are part of this noble class, led by Norway and Finland. But Italy has for years trailed in Serie B. The Italian press is “partially” free, due to well-identified limitations, which are described by the following facts:
1)      Since 2006, because of their work, more than 1,300 journalists have been the object of threats, intimidations, spurious lawsuits and other serious abuses that under the current legislation do not constitute offenses or crimes, but do in practice prevent freedom of expression enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution;
2)     Libel is a criminal offense punishable with imprisonment, and the law allows intimidation through the use of lawsuits and claims for damages;
3)     Pluralism of information, especially in the television, is limited by the concentration of publisher ownership, where insufficient regulation of conflicts of interests between politics and publishing allows for public information channels to be often subject to the control of the parties, in stark contrast to the stated mission of acting in the general interest;
4)     Repeated calls by the UN, the European authorities, the Council of Europe and the OSCE to see Italian legislation of the press aligned to international standards, have gone unheeded;
5)     In 2009 the independent institute Freedom House classified Italy among the countries where the press is partly free. The downgrade was confirmed in October 2012. On January 29, 2013 Reporters Sans Frontieres published the new world ranking of press freedom, in which Italy is among the countries that has “sensitive issues”, ranking 57th out of 179 countries, behind Hungary and before Hong Kong.

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