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Wikipedia protests against Italian media law

Wikipedia protests against Italian media law

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's controversial wiretapping bill continues to spark further protests from Italy's online community.

As reported earlier, the bill known as DDL Intercettazioni was initially designed to prevent newspapers publishing information obtained through wiretapped recordings, such recordings having caused significant trouble for the Italian PM after it was discovered he called Italy 'a shit country' and made crass insults about the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The most contentious clause of the bill, paragraph 29, also proposed that should any blogger publish information deemed to be defamatory, the blogger would be forced to print a correction within 48 hours of publishing the offending entry else pay a fine of €12,000.

Unsurprisingly, the proposed legislation has caused outcry from the press and the blogging community, with demonstrations in Rome and journalists striking in protest.

Wikipedia has also joined the fight.

The online encyclopaedia has removed its Italian language service as it fears that such a law would effectively stop it from operating. The service is open to contributions from any user and has no overarching editor; therefore, if the new bill were used against it, Wikipedia would most likely be unable to respond.

The site has posted a rebuke against the bill in place of its usual Italian home page, stating that the obligation to publish a correction without the chance to first verify whether the supposedly defamatory information is true is "an unacceptable restriction of the freedom and independence of Wikipedia, to the point of distorting the principles on which the Free Encyclopedia is based". The International Journalism Festival organisers have published an interview with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales which reasserts his opinion, previously stated on Twitter, that the proposed law is 'idiotic'.

The site's act of protest has prompted a huge response from the Italian people who use it every day. As a consequence of the huge public reaction, of which Wikipedia was a part, the Italian government has modified the bill to affect only large news websites and leave smaller blogs and Wikipedia untouched.

However, as Il Tempo points out, this does nothing to protect 'voices with authority' who write for larger news organisations and publish online. Modifying one clause might be a step in the right direction but it does not eliminate the serious threat to press freedom posed by this bill. In the words of Jimmy Wales, the modification "is a victory for Wikipedia, but [the bill] remains a serious blow against press freedom in Italy".

Sources: BBC, Editors Weblog, Inchieste.repubblica.it, Journalism Festival, La Stampa, Il Tempo, Wikipedia,



Katherine Travers


2011-10-06 14:15

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