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Italy media strikes to protest wiretapping bill

A majority of Italian media went on strike Friday to protest a bill [materials, in Italian] currently under consideration that would restrict the use of wiretaps [JURIST news archive] and criminalize the reporting of wiretap transcripts by the news media. The Italian press union, FNSI [union website, in Italian], called for the "day of silence" [press release, in Italian] to protest the bill, which they contend will severely restrict the dissemination of important information to the public. FNSI indicated that the strike was representative of the silence the public would be faced with if the bill were to be signed into law. The majority of Italian daily newspapers failed to publish [AFP report] a Friday edition as part of the strike, and Italian television all-news channels began showing pre-recorded programming at 7:00 AM local time. The pre-recorded programming was scheduled to continue all day, with live broadcasts resuming in the evening. Several right of center publications, including Libero and Il Giornale [media websites, in Italian], opted not to take part in the strike. The editor for Il Giornale, which is owned by the brother of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [official profile, in Italian; JURIST news archive], indicated that the paper has concerns about the bill [op-ed, in Italian], but said the best way for the newspaper to protest against the bill is by continuing to publish up-to-date, informative content.

Under the proposed legislation, approved [JURIST report] by the Italian Senate [official website, in Italian] last month, a three-judge panel would be required to grant a wiretap, and the wiretap would only be valid for a two-month period. Any publication reporting on the contents of a wiretap during an ongoing investigation would be subject to fines of USD $540,000, and the individual journalist reporting the information could also be held liable. Supporters of the bill claim it is necessary in order to protect privacy and curb the excessive use of wiretaps [NYT report]. The bill has been widely criticized [WSJ report] by members of the media and prosecutors who contend the bill is aimed at protecting high-ranking officials, including Berlusconi, who are often the focus of wiretap investigations. Opponents also contend that the bill would weaken the ability of the judiciary to conduct investigations, including investigations into organized crime. The bill must now be approved by Italy's lower house of parliament before it becomes law.

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