By: Rachel McAthy
Online journalists in Italy have signed a petition against a so-called “blog-killing clause” in the country’s controversial new Wiretapping Bill.
According to a report by the AFP, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition deputies approved a “watered-down” revision of the bill on Thursday, after the original document drew strong opposition over plans to ban the publication of transcripts in the media.
The revised bill will allow the publication of transcripts “relevant to an investigation”, but campaigners remain concerned by a clause in the new version which, according to European Digital Rights, requires anyone “responsible for information websites” to publish corrections within 48 hours of a complaint of inaccuracy being made, or else face fines of up to 25,000 euros.
Appealing to the international media, Elisabetta Stella, an Italian blogger told Journalism.co.uk that the clause will be “one of the most serious (…) attacks on freedom of information on the internet ever”.
She is one of more than 20 Italian journalists and bloggers who have joined together to campaign against the bill.
“We are about to become the first and only country in the world in which a blogger risks more than a journalist, while at the same time being less free,” she says in the appeal.
“Requiring bloggers to comply to the duty to rectify within 48 hours – just like professional journalists – or else face a fine of up to 12,500 euros will inevitably cause them to think twice on whether to write on issues that might hurt the sensibilities of the economic and political elite.”
“The Bill cannot be allowed to pass as it currently stands. We demand full and open Parliamentary debate on Article 1, paragraph 29 of the Bill, including consideration of the above amendments,” she added.
Last week proposed amendments to extend the time period and reduce the fine in the clause, which can be found in paragraph 29 of Article 1 of the bill, were rejected.
In 2007 journalists went on strike after similar legislation was proposed, but it was later abandoned.
The European Digital Rights (EDRI) have also voiced their concerns over the clause, which they fear will discourage bloggers from writing about important issues.
“Besides the limitation to the freedom of expression, forcing bloggers to rectify within 48 hours will lead to closing down many of the blogs as this will practically be an impossible task,” it says in a release.
“This implies that a blogger must register with a legal domicile with some authority, facing the same bureaucratic formalities as the written press and that he (she) will have to connect to the internet every single day in order to check whether there is a request for correction and place the correction in due time.
“This would definitely discourage bloggers who will hesitate to write on economical or political issues that might bother certain personalities.”