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Investigative reporters, websites threatened once again by proposed "gag law"

(RSF/IFEX) - 6 October 2011 - Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns the resumption of parliamentary discussion of a government bill that would curb the publication of police wiretaps in the news media and would force websites to publish corrections automatically. Approved by the senate in June 2010, the bill had been shelved because of an outcry from civil society.

Conveniently for the embattled prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, the bill's adoption was added to the agenda of the chamber of deputies. With a few cosmetic changes that were approved by a legislative committee on 5 October, the final version was due to go before the chamber yesterday and to be voted on next week.

"The latest amendments make no difference," Reporters Without Borders said. "Restricting the publication of tapped phone conversations in the media to this degree would gravely impede investigative journalism. It has all the hallmarks of a crude and dishonest device for gagging the media. It also has a distinctly political dimension. The government is trying to cover up the prime minister's sex scandals, many of which have been exposed by the publication of phone transcripts."

"Although bloggers are omitted from the bill's latest version, online journalists are facing the possibility of having to censor themselves or comply with every request for a correction in order to avoid a 12,000 euro fine. By ignoring the right to information and by making corrections automatic, allowing no possibility of challenging them, the bill is totally out of step with international principles and European legal precedents."

"As a democracy and European Union member, Italy has a duty to defend civil liberties. Italy's parliamentarians must consider the international impact of their actions and abandon this bill."

Click here to read the full press release

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