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Italian journalists to strike over defamation bill

Italy's FNSI has announced that journalists will strike over the law that would send reporters to jail

Italian journalists to strike over defamation bill

Nathania Zevi

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The week was supposed to begin with the national strike of Italian journalists (postponed due to a vote in the Senate scheduled for Monday afternoon) working  for newspapers, television stations, news agencies, magazines, web publications, press offices and freelancers as well, against what the Secretary of the Federation of the Italian Press Franco Siddi has called a "measure against libel that would severely limit the autonomy of information. "

Italian journalists will strike to protest against a law that would send them to jail for defamation while editors would be let off with a fine, the journalists' union said on Thursday.

According to the FNSI (the National Federation of the Italian Press), in fact, the rule (so called "save editors") in question - that has already been approved by the Senate (upper chamber) - would be a direct attack on the press and the right to inform.

The Senate passed an amendment to a bill that would set to maximum sentence of a year in jail for anyone convicted of defamation, while editors-in-chief and managing editors face a maximum fine of 50.000 euros (40.432 pounds) or 20.000 euros respectively.

The measure must be approved by the Chamber of Deputies to become law. Italy has more than 20.000 full-time reporters, according to the Journalists' Guild.

"The Senate vote is a declaration of war on  journalists' right to inform that they are forced to fight against. The strike of the category and a widespread mobilization becomes inevitable, "said Siddi, adding that the introduction of the rule would be an attack on an category that is supposed to ensure information to citizens.

According to public opinion, the debate over defamation penalties started when Alessandro Sallusti, editor in chief of the newspaper "Il Giornale", owned by former premier Silvio Berlusconi's family, was recently sentenced to 14 months in prison for a libelous article printed in 2007, when he was in charge of another newspaper.

The resulting controversy has prompted both President Giorgio Napolitano and Justice Minister Paola Severino to say they agreed that sanctions for defamation should be reduced.

This year a series of scandals have hit several lawmakers, prompting many senators to support the amendment that would put reporters in prison.

© Riproduzione Riservata

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