Italy: draft bill to tighten criminal penalties for defamation

The International and European Federation of Journalists, (IFJ) and (EFJ),Opens external link in new window have submitted on 27 May an alert on the Council of Europe of the Platform for the Protection of Journalism condemning the draft amendment to the Italian Penal Code which will increase the criminal penalties for those accused of defamation against members of the political class. The IFJ, EFJ and its Italian member, FNSI, call on Italian authorities to decriminalize defamation. 

A committee of the Italian Senate voted unanimously on 3 May 2016, a draft amendment to the Penal Code which will increase the criminal penalties for those accused of defamation against members of the political class, the judiciary or public administration. The draft law will soon be submitted to the Senate for adoption. Specifically, the text envisages raising the maximum sentence from 6 to 9 years in prison, if the defamation concerns a politician, a judge or a public servant.

The bill was denounced by the Italian Order of Journalists, the Italian Federation of Journalists (FNSI) and the NGO Ossigeno per l’Informazione, which recall that another draft bill, introduced in 2012 proposed outright decriminalisation of defamation.

The IFJ and the EFJ hold firmly to the principle, which has been established in rulings by the European Court of Human Rights, that those who hold high public office should not enjoy additional protections in law but instead should be prepared to accept a higher level of criticism than others.

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