ITALY: Creation of new centre hailed as boost to press freedom

(CIVICUS Monitor)


On 15th November 2017, Italian Minister of the Interior Marco Minniti announced the creation of a Coordination Centre for the Protection of Press Freedom. The announcement was timely given the nearly two hundred journalists who remain under some form of protection due to threats against them. The Centre’s creation was hailed by UNESCO as “the first concrete step in Western Europe to put an end to impunity for attacks against journalists”. Italian journalists have for many years faced serious threats, with one local press freedom monitoring group documenting 345 threats to journalists thus far in 2017. President and the secretary of the monitoring groupOssigeno per l’Informazione, Alberto Spampinato, also welcomed the Centre’s creation, saying:

“This Center is the first step towards the creation of a public platform through which threats, intimidations, aggressions and retaliations to media can be promptly submitted to public institutions. In so doing violence and infringements will not become a ‘gag’ to the freedom of the press”.

In one example of the kind of threats faced by Italian media, in early November 2017 two journalists were violently attacked in Ostia, near Rome. Journalist Daniele Piervincenzi and filmmaker Edoardo Anselmi, who work for state broadcaster RAI, were assaulted by a suspected associates of a local mafia gang. Piervincenzi was headbutted and had his nose broken before the two were chased and attacked with a baton.The attack occurred when Piervincenzi was asking the suspected attacker, Robert Spada, about his support for a far-right party in recent elections.

On 8th November, 2017, the Italian Parliament approved new rules on data retention, allowing telecommunications companies to keep users’ telephone and internet data for up to six years. The changes have been heavily criticised by local rights groups, including the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights and the Hermes Centre for Transparency and Digital Human Rights, which have drawn attention to the lack of  public consultations in regards to the new rules. Advocates have also denounced the fact that the new rules contravene guidance recently given by the EU Court of Justice, in addition to conflicting with Italian privacy regulations. Italy is currently ranked ‘free’ on Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net Index; however, that report does highlight some shortcomings related to violations of internet users’ rights. Some observers expect the new regulations to be challenged in court.

Original article on CIVICUS Monitor

Featured image by Filippo Monteforte/AFP