Italian citizens are preparing to take to the streets of Rome tomorrow in order to protest against the infringement of media freedom in Italy.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has drafted a bill that aims to limit the power of news agencies to publish the content of wiretapped recordings. It's not the first time the Prime Minister has tried to do so. In 2009 he attempted to bring in similar legislation, presenting a bill that would make it illegal for any recordings not made by a so-called 'professional journalist' - i.e. a state-approved member of the Italian National Order of Journalists - to be published.
This time, however, Berlusconi has also managed to enrage the blogging community. One particular clause, known to some as "ammazza-blog" (blog killer), states that if someone feels they have been defamed on a blog they have the right to reply, just as if the same material were published in a newspaper. What's more, if the blogger failed to publish a correction to the offending post within 48 hours, they would face a fine of up to €12,000.
Naturally, the blogging community is outraged. Many see it as a direct attack on their freedom of speech and so have decided to protest.
However, there are some who simply do not believe the bill will pass. Italian lawyers have spotted a practical difficulty with the proposals, as the demand requires a correction to be published within two days and presumably, given the short time window, the bill anticipates the claimant could send their request in the form of an email and not recorded post. One specialist in Italian internet regulation Antonio Polimeni, told Corriere della Sera that '"email has no validity"' in such legal proceedings.
Italian blogger Federico Formica of Linkiesta argues that la Cassazione, the Italian supreme court, would be unlikely to let the law pass on the grounds that the court is still "applying a very clear distinction: blogs are one thing, the press is another."
Still, this bill will only serve to add to the ever-increasing fear regarding Italy's media freedom.
Freedom House ranked Italy's press freedom status as only 'partly free' this year, due to Berlusconi's ownership of the influential private media company Mediaset and the control he wields over state television. "Political interference at the state broadcaster, RAI" remained a "key issue of concern" during 2010 and 2011, states the Freedom House review. Editor of American Vogue, Anna Wintour recently voiced her concern in an interview with La Repubblica, describing Berluscioni's government as "in effect a dictatorship".
The controversial bill will go before parliament next week.