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Europe

Italian media initiate news blackout against wiretapping law

A host of Italian media outlets initiated a news blackout on Friday as journalists went on strike against a bill curbing the use of wiretapping. It is feared the law could hinder investigations into organized crime.

A collection of Italian publications

Many Italian papers were absent from newsstands

Most Italian newspapers and news bulletins closed down for the day on Friday, as journalists went on strike over a government bill that would restrict reporting based on wiretaps.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government says an anti-wiretap law is needed to protect the privacy of individuals. However journalists are arguing it will hamper both the fight against organized crime and press reporting on corruption, though the measure is expected to exempt mafia and terrorism investigations from the restrictions.

Legal and police authorities have also criticized the proposed legislation, which was approved by the Italian senate in June and must now be passed by the lower house.

One of the bill's provisions requires that a three-judge panel approve successive three-day extensions to an initial 75-day warrant to wiretap conversations. The legislation will also prevent the publication of transcripts of recordings.

The bill would see fines of up to 464,700 euros ($590,000) for journalists or editors who flout the publication restrictions.

Pro-Berlusconi outlets still publishing

Among the only newspapers being published during the strike are pro-Berlusconi publications.

The right-wing Il Giornale, which is owned by Berlusconi's brother, was among those to hit newsstands, despite its editor speaking out against the law.

"We are not satisfied with the gag law," Vittorio Feltri, editor-In-chief of the newspaper, said in a video message on Il Giornale's website, adding however that he found it "wrong to gag ourselves, losing the only means that allows us to speak to our readers."

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has also attacked the bill, saying it "could seriously hinder investigative journalism in Italy."

Author: Darren Mara (AFP/Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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