EFJ Backs Protest by Journalists and Citizens Groups Over Law on Wiretapping in Italy

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today backed a massive mobilisation organised by its Italian affiliate, the Federazione Nazionale della Stampa Italiana (FNSI) in opposition to an Italian law over wiretapping which the union claims will hamper legitimate journalistic work.

The law proposed by the Italian Minister of Justice, Angelino Alfano and also called the "gagging law" (legge bavaglio) was adopted on 10 June in the Italian Senate and covers telephone tapping ordered by judges. It is still to be discussed in the Lower House.

The EFJ and the FNSI warn that this draft law is an attempt to censor journalists and to prevent citizens from getting information on issues of public interest. FNSI General Secretary Franco Siddi warned: "This law will take away from citizens an inalienable right, the right to know."

The FNSI is organising in cooperation with other unions and civil society a major demonstration in central Rome and in other places throughout Italy on 1 July between 17.00 and 21.00.  It will also organise a "black out", a day of silence of the Italian press and public broadcasting on 9 July.

"This is not only a fight by Italian journalists and supporters of civil liberties but a European fight for press freedom and the citizens' right to know," said Arne König, EFJ President. "Journalists are not supposed to hide information, whether the source is public or private, and their sources should be protected. They do not ask for the "right to gossip", but for the right to inform in the public interest." He said the Silvio Berlusconi government's draft law is contrary to international conventions and to the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights. "The FNSI supported by the EFJ/IFJ is ready to take this to the European Court of Human Rights," he said.

An EFJ delegation will also discuss the wiretapping draft law in a meeting with EU Commissioner Reding, responsible for Justice and Fundamental Rights on 1 July. Commissioner Reding said in an interview with an Italian newspaper last week that the European Commission would analyse the law once adopted with respect to press freedom and freedom of information, which are fundamental values to the European Union.

The draft bill foresees a penalty of up to 464,700 Euros for publishers and up to 10,000 Euros for journalists who flout the ban. Furthermore, the bill foresees prison sentences for anyone who records or films without the approval of the person who is being recorded or filmed.

Only "professional journalists" (i.e. journalists belonging to the Italian National Order of Journalists) would be allowed to record and film individuals without previous authorisation, solely for journalistic purposes.

Special authorisation would be needed to tap the phones of parliamentarians and priests. Journalists would be banned from publishing transcripts or summaries and even from reporting on a probe until preliminary investigations are over.

While journalists want to respect the right of privacy, the EFJ and its affiliate the FNSI demand the right balance between privacy and freedom of information, as enshrined in the European Convention of Human rights.

The EFJ says this law would reinforce the European-wide trend of attacks on civil liberties, which can only be confronted by a strong mobilisation of professional organisations and civil society.


For more information contact the EFJ at +32 2 235 2200
The EFJ represents over 250,000 journalists in over 30 countries in Europe