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Bill on publication of phone call intercepts raises press freedom concerns

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has called on Italy's senators not to approve a bill on telephone tapping that regulates the publication of phone call intercepts in the news media. Presented by justice minister Clemente Mastella, the bill sailed through the chamber of deputies on 17 April 2007 with 447 votes in favour, 7 abstentions and none against.

"If the senate passes this bill as it currently stands, the leeway for journalists to take editorial decisions about the publication of intercepts will be reduced to the minimum," the press freedom organisation said. "The sanctions envisaged even include prison sentences. Adoption of this bill would be a retrograde step for Italian democracy."

The bill's disturbing provisions include an obligation to destroy all recordings five years after the judge's decision and a ban on publishing or broadcasting a recording if the investigation is over. News media that violated these restrictions on the freedom to publish could be fined up to 100,000 euros and the journalists responsible could even go to prison.

Approval of the bill by the chamber of deputies triggered an outcry in the Italian media and their unions. Order of Italian Journalists president Lorenzo del Boca said: "This would be the first time that an external authority would have the ability to intervene and issue decisions about journalists' professional conduct (. . .). Furthermore, the threat of journalists being imprisoned just for doing their job would send us back 10 years."

The National Union of Italian Journalists (FNSI) has called a one-day protest strike for 30 June.

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