ARTICLE 19 has been long concerned about the imprisonment of journalists in Italy for defamation. We have repeatedly called on the Italian parliament to amend the outdated defamation laws.
We welcome efforts to improve defamation legislation. However, we find the reform only partial, as several provisions of the Defamation Law are incompatible with international freedom of expression standards. In particular:
- criminal liability for insult and defamation is retained;
- the Defamation Law includes excessive fines and the prohibition from exercising the profession of journalist;
- the period for filing a civil action for damages is long; and
- criteria for the determination of compensation awards for defamation does not require that the awards be proportionate to the harm.
ARTICLE 19 calls on the Italian senate to consider carefully the calls and arguments of international bodies for decriminalisation of defamation and abolish criminal defamation in its entirety. If criminal defamation is retained the fines for defamation should be reduced and the set minimum should be removed.
In addition, we call for:
- abolishment of the prohibition of journalists from exercising their profession, as it is incompatible with international standards;
- a limit to the period for filing a defamation suit;
- a ceiling for the compensation awards amount; and
- abolishment of criminal liability for insult of the President, and defamation of the Republic, the constitutional institutions, armed forces and the Italian nation.
The full legal analysis is available here.