Parliamentary Question: 'Gag law' in Italy


Parliamentary questions

9 June 2010 O-0086/2010 Question for oral answer to the Commission Rule 115 Sonia Alfano, Sophia in 't Veld, Luigi de Magistris, Marietje Schaake, Cecilia Wikström, Leonidas Donskis, Nathalie Griesbeck, Gianni Vattimo, Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, on behalf of the ALDE Group Subject: 'Gag law' in Italy The Italian Parliament is examining a proposal by the Berlusconi government to amend the wiretap law (notably in relation to the criteria and procedures for authorisation, the types of crime covered, electronic surveillance, duration of wiretap authorisation, use of wiretapped information in relation to other crimes, and exceptions for MPs and priests) and to limit the possibility of publishing wiretap transcriptions by severely punishing media – including new media – that carry information about judicial inquiries prior to the preliminary hearing stage, i.e. for a period which, in Italy, can range from three to six, or sometimes up to 10, years. Major concerns about the new draft legislation have been voiced in Italy: the National Association of Magistrates fears it will result in a weakening of the tools available for combating crime and protecting citizens’ security. The Italian Federation of Newspaper Editors, the National Federation of the Press and the Journalists’ Association have labelled it a ‘gag law’, criticising in particular the high fines proposed. US authorities, including Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, have also expressed concerns about the planned changes. 1. Does the Commission think that the proposed changes in Italy’s wiretap law are proportionate and in line with European standards on freedom of information, media freedom and the citizen’s right to know, as guaranteed by Article 11 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and related case law? 2. Does the Commission think that the proposed changes are compatible with the EU objectives on combating crime in Europe? 3. Does the Commission think that the proposed changes – the declared aims of which are to prevent violations of trial secrecy and to protect privacy – are proportionate in relation to the practical effect they will have in severely limiting state law-enforcement activity directed at guaranteeing citizens’ security through the prevention and repression of crime, and in restricting freedom of information? 4. What steps will the Commission take to ensure that freedom of information, freedom of expression and freedom of the press are guaranteed in Italy and in the EU and that the fight against organised crime in Italy and the EU is effective?