In Italy, the plan of Giorgia Meloni’s party to punish defamation with four and a half years in prison arouses concern

A senator from the Prime Minister’s party tabled this amendment to a bill on defamation. The opposition and journalists are up in arms.



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Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at the Italian Senate, in Rome, at the end of January 2024. (ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP)

In Italy, it is only a project at this stage but it worries the opposition and journalists. Gianni Berrino, a senator from Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia party, proposes in an amendment to a defamation bill to punish defamation perpetrators with up to four and a half years in prison. The opposition and the press are worried about this proposal, the website The Independent estimating Friday April 12 that it “reintroduces prison for journalists”. Senators from the left-leaning Democratic Party called the project “dangerous drift” and evoke a “barbaric heritage”.

The amendment provides that the person repeatedly responsible for defamation in the press risks up to three years in prison, and up to four and a half years if the person is innocent. Italian law already provided, after the Second World War, for threatening perpetrators of defamation with prison. But the Italian Constitutional Court, believing that this threatened freedom of thought, ruled the measure unconstitutional in 2021.

The party founded by Berlusconi says it is opposed to the measure

Senator Gianni Berrino is taking the opposite path with this amendment, although it is possible that in the end it will never be adopted. Forza Italia, the party of the late Silvio Berlusconi, is increasingly playing a moderating role within the majority and says it is opposed to the measure. But with this proposal, the message got through. If Giorgia Meloni has sent signs of moderation in Europe since her election, in Italy part of her majority has been doing the opposite for a year and a half, in successive steps.

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