Stampa clandestina

September 29th, 2008 § 0 comments

The Reg!:

Italian bloggers are up in arms at a court ruling early this year that suggests almost all Italian blogs are illegal. This month, a senior Italian politician went one step further, warning that most web activity is likely to be against the law.
The story begins back in May, when a judge in Modica (in Sicily) found local historian and author Carlo Ruta guilty of the crime of “stampa clandestina” – or publishing a “clandestine” newspaper – in respect of his blog. The judge ruled that since the blog had a headline, that made it an online newspaper, and brought it within the law’s remit.

The offence has its origins in 1948, when in apparent contradiction of Article 21 of the Italian Constitution guaranteeing the right to free expression, a law was passed requiring publishers to register officially before setting up a new publication. The intention, in the immediate aftermath of Fascism, may have been to regulate partisan and extremist publications. The effect was to introduce into Italian society a highly centrist and bureaucratic approach to freedom of the Press.

A further twist to this tale took place in 2001, with the realisation that existing laws were inadequate to deal with the internet. Instead of liberalising, the Italian Government sought to bring the internet into the same framework as traditional print media. Law 62, passed in March 2001, introduces the concept of “stampa clandestina” to the internet.

What few noticed at the time was that this law had the capacity to place blogs on a par with full-blown journalism. It would only take a judge to decide that something as simple as a headline was what defined a “newspaper”.

One of the supporters of this law in 2001 was Giuseppe Giulietti, now a Deputy with the Italia di Valori Parliamentary Grouping.

Back then, he brushed aside criticism of the proposed law with the reassurance that “The Press Law has never had as its objective the regulation of the online community”.

What a difference a few years make. Earlier this month, the same Giuseppe Giulietti could be found writing to the Minister for Justice that “current logic means that almost the entire Italian internet, by its very nature, could be considered illegal – “stampa clandestina” – which is a complete contravention of the democratic rulebook”.

Italy is seriously turning into a wrong ‘un, what with the fingerprinting of Roma children and the different legal penalties given depending on who you are.


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