anche in italiano
Censorship in disguise
In a draf law
by the Italian government
once again pretexts and ambiguities
to disguise State censorship
An ALCEI statement October 19, 2007
As had already happened six years ago with the infamous law 62/2001, a new law draft on the re-arrangement of publishing, prepared by the Italian government on August 3, 2007 and now entering parliament procedure, clearly intends to enforce bureaucratic and financial burdens, as well as sanctions, also on the free and private expression of thought by normal citizens using the internet.
The text prepared by the government is deliberately confused and ambiguous. If approved by parliament as it is, it would cause confusion and uncertainty on the possibility of free expression even by people who are not professional journalists and are not publishers of newspapers, magazines or broadcasting.
There is no explanation of why the government intends to treat as card-carrying journalists also people who are not, and dont intend to be and why the proposed text omits any clear statement that the obligations to be instituted by this law (if it will be approved) apply only to professionals and entrepreneurs in the content producing industry.
If the concern is to sanction defamation the governments proposal is a non-solution: the appropriate laws already exist, and anyone publishing online can be easily identified. So this can not be an excuse for liberticide legislation.
The fact is that this legislatory draft leads to the creation of one more "Damocles sword" to be used against whoever publishes uncomfortable opinions or information. Such a law, if approved, would not be obeyed by many people, for a variety of reasons. Because they are not aware of it, or they dont understand it. Because of deliberate and legitimate civil disobedience. Because of its obscure meaning and difficult interpretation. Etcetera. The result would be the creation of an artificial crime to be persecuted according to circumstances and opportunities or to the whims and biases of whoever will hold this power.
This is damaging also for business enterprises using the net, as well as internet providers. This draft law inflicts a severe blow on hosting services, as well as those based on communities and the free providing of widely useful content. Therefore, in addition to contrasting the universal right for free speech, it also hampers a business model that has increasingly proven to be an extended social benefit.
What we demand: it should be clearly stated that the obligations if they are really necessary apply only to publishers, press services and generally only to information entrepreneurs, that work for profit and obtain public subsidies, clearly excluding any publishing by private individuals and non-profit organisations that are not selling anything.
Postscript October 26, 2007
After this statement was issued by ALCEI on 19 October, and following widespread protest, the government has been making reassuring noises about amending the draft.
Of course this does not mean that the problem is solved. It will be necessary to keep an eye on what happens to this law if and when it goes through parliamentary process as well as on any other government or legislative action that may have similar effects.
A year later October 12, 2008
That draft law seems to have disappeared in parliamentary procedure. But the problem remains with existing laws and perverse interpretations, as we can see in some recent episodes.