OSCE media freedom representative urges Italy to amend bill on electronic surveillance
VIENNA, 15 June 2010 - The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, today called on Italy to drop a draft law on electronic surveillance - also known as the 'wiretap law'- backed by the Italian government or revise it to bring amendments in line with international standards of freedom of expression and OSCE commitments.
On 10 June, the Italian Senate passed the bill on electronic surveillance and electronic eavesdropping (Law No. 1611) in a controversial vote boycotted by opposition senators.
"I am concerned that the Senate approved a bill that could seriously hinder investigative journalism in Italy despite several warnings from my Office. It marks a trend towards criminalizing journalistic work," said Mijatovic.
"Journalists must be free to report on all cases of public interest and must be able to choose how they conduct a responsible investigation. The draft law in its current form contradicts OSCE commitments, especially as it prohibits the use of some confidential sources and materials which may be necessary for meaningful investigative journalism in the service of democracy," Mijatovic said.
According to Mijatovic, problematic amendments of the draft law include:
- Severe restrictions on the publishing of documents related to court proceedings or police investigations prior to the beginning of a trial;
- The introduction of a penalty of up to 450,000 euros for publishers and 30 days in jail and a penalty of up to 10,000 euros for journalists who publish leaked wiretapping materials before the beginning of a trial;
- The possibility of a prison sentence for anyone who is not a "professional journalist" who records or films a person without their prior approval.
The amendment still needs to be approved by the lower house of parliament and signed by the President of Italy to become law.