Italian journalists are on strike today in protest at plans to restrict phone tapping which could lead to them being fined and jailed if they publish extracts obtained via the taps.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi claims it is a privacy issue, whereas journalists say the new law would stop them investigating corrupt politicians and public figures.
Under the proposed law, which has been approved by a senate commission, the same sanctions could be imposed for the publication of certain public documents.
The bill would also ban all news media from publishing any information about a judicial investigation until it has been completed and the case has been brought to trial.
Prison sentences could also be imposed on journalists who are not members of registered journalists’ associations and who use hidden cameras or audio recorders in the course of their reporting.
“We hail this protest by the Italian media,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It shows that the protests raised against the bill are not motivated by any irresponsible caprice or desire to defend the interests of a profession.
“This bill is attacking judicial investigation. If the Italian parliament is ready to change what is the basis of a fundamental press right, why will it stop there? What are we to think of the bill that would require Web TVs to be licensed? How can it be acceptable for state TV stations to be unable to organise political debates during an election campaign? The Italian government is clearly not defending the public interest as regards news and information. We hope that this is not also the case with the parliament, and that Italians will not have to turn to the European Court of Human Rights to obtain protection for their right to free and independently reported news."