Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government has drafted a bill, to be debated next week in the Italian parliament, which seeks to curb the rights of the media. Unfortunately the proposed legislation doesn’t distinguish between traditional journalists and the blogging community.
The Prime Minister has himself been caught up in several media exposures and this is not the first time he has attempted to curb, what he sees as media excesses. As with his last attempt in 2009, this bill focuses on phone tapping and covert recording, but this time the legislative net is cast much wider and doesn’t only target “professional journalists”.
One particular clause has bloggers up in arms. It requires that if someone feels they have been defamed or misrepresented on a blog, they must be given the right to reply or a correction within 48 hours. Failure could result in a fine of up to 12,000 Euros. The clause has been named “The Blog Killer” because a fine that size would wipe out most individual bloggers.
Bloggers also point out that 2 days is way too tight a deadline for those who may only post once, twice or three times a week. Some critics of the new law say that the impracticability of the 48hr deadline is its weakness, because it would require a complainant to use email, not post, which under existing Italian law has no legal validity.
It’s not hard to find critics of the proposed law but PCWorld quotes a supporter, Antonio Leone, a lawmaker who suggests it is less severe than a previous bill promoted by the opposition.
“Talking about a ‘gagging law’ and organizing protest rallies in Rome is a sign that some people want to continue to wallow in gossip, used as a weapon of political struggle,” Leone said. “That’s a mortal blow to civilization, to democracy and to the right of every individual to privacy.”
The media bill is not the only attack on the internet. The Italian government is also reported to be preparing an anti-piracy law that could force ISPs to filter out websites that infringe copyright, trademark or patents and deny users access after only one alleged infringement.