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Amendments to the Italian press legislation may silence no-profit organisations that are committed to spreading information on the Web.
Press Release - please circulate.
Everyone has the right to express their opinions freely, in speaking, in writing and in any other form of diffusion.
(The Italian Constitution, art. 21)
To our foreign readers:
In Italy, if you want to become a journalist, you have to write a number of articles in the official press and then apply for registration with the Roll of Journalists (Albo dei Giornalisti). Registration is obligatory for journalists, just as it is obligatory for doctors to register with the Medical register and for solicitors to register with the Roll of Solicitors. In addition, Italian magazines, newspapers and TV programmes have to register with local Courts, which provide them with an authorisation to publish. At present, many Italian associations (especially no-profit) publish their bulletins on the Internet, partly because they cannot afford to run an official press agency and partly because most of us are not journalists, but private citizens who cannot register with the Roll. A new press and libel law is about to be passed, and if legal equivalence is made between the Internet and the official press, we may soon be forced to shut down our Websites, even if we have never broken the law. Quite simply, we will not be able to register with the Roll of Journalists, nor afford the costs of such a change of status. These modifications of the press law allegedly represent an updating of the libel laws aimed at protecting people libelled by Internet surfers. We do not want impunity: if some people use the Web to break the law in any way, then we agree that offenders must be punished. But most no-profit associations that run Internet bulletins in Italy have never breached the law, and do not deserve to be silenced. We do not want to stop providing our readers with information, especially information that does not reach the headlines.
Please read our Press Release and our appeal, and, if you feel you agree with us, sign our appeal in support of voluntary information services, freedom of the press and freedom of information in Italy.
Following is the text of the PeaceLink appeal, which is available in both Italian and English at http://www.peacelink.it/censura.
You may sign the appeal by sending a message at email@example.com.
Appeal for freedom of expression, communication and information on the World Wide Web.
Today, our right of expression can also be exercised through the Internet.
We address this appeal to those who support the right of everyone to express their opinions freely, in speaking, in writing and in any other form of diffusion, as provided for in article 21 of the Italian Constitution.
The current legislation is unbalanced in Italy: a very recent law on copyright harshly punishes software piracy and hacking (to protect software companies) but there is no law whatsoever to protect the rights of those who communicate through the Internet, especially citizens who choose to participate actively in spreading information on the World Wide Web.
In such a situation of uncertainty, popular, free and voluntary information risks being stamped out to the advantage of commercial information centred on large media corporations.
We denounce the dictatorial model that governs the flow of information on a global scale. Most of the information that makes the headlines or appears on TV, radio stations and magazines comes from a handful of foreign-based press agencies that select, control and filter the news every day. Four press agencies alone manage 80% of the news about the whole world: the U.S-based agencies Associated Press and United Press International, the British-based Reuters and the French-based France Presse.
Most of the information about the Southern hemisphere passes through these four agencies before it reaches Italian newspapers and TV channels. The most marginal situations and the most blatant social inequities pass totally unnoticed. All the information produced outside the restricted circle of large press agencies is silenced and overwhelmed by media giants. The protagonists of news items have no way of telling their own stories, because the facts are immediately taken away from them and filtered by large media corporation that leave them with no chance to express themselves freely. All this can be challenged only by offering a wide range of information sources and by granting individuals the right to access powerful means of communication and new communication technologies.
The concentration of information in the hands of large foreign-based media groups is part of the process of globalisation, but it has also stifled the work of small publishers, the promotion of literature, the local press and small journals published by no-profit organisations. All these have been crushed by so-called “free” market, in an increasingly demanding and competitive environment. Every single day, to the indifference of most people, journals, publishing houses, local radios and several other means of expression die out because they cannot make the profits they need to survive.
There is a new form of censorship and limitation of the freedom of the press behind the so-called “ineluctability of economic laws”: our freedom of expression, pluralism and democracy are in danger. The new proposal to limit the freedom of expression in Italy is passing unnoticed by most people and it is precisely for this reason that it represents a worrying menace to a distracted civil society. We claim the right to new forms of expression that prioritise contents over profit for cultural products such as books and journals. We claim our right to continue producing information on a self-managed basis in a pluralistic and heterogeneous environment, and to offer an alternative to corporations that can afford the high costs of production that are necessary to distribute their products in supermarkets, shops and newstalls all over Italy.
Access to information and communication means, including the Internet, is a fundamental right of each individual. The State and institutions in the public and private sector alike should protect this right. The true value of communication on the Internet lies in people, not in technology alone. The World Wide Web will develop all its potential only when anyone who wants to use it can do so openly and freely.
We oppose laws and regulations blocking and repressing information or limiting access to the Internet. The same thing has already happened to Italian radio communications, which have been blocked by a series of authorisations and licences stopping the possibilities for social change offered by radio channels. The use of electronic communication should not be blocked by authorisations, patents, licences, taxes and bureaucracy, nor should it be subject to special regulations, making it any different from other forms of assertion of our freedom of thought, opinion, association and freedom of the press.
We are addressing this appeal to the people who agree with our press release, to associations, journalists and other people who work in the fields of information, law and culture. We are promoting a fair law in Italy to protect individuals in the information society, including those who use the Internet and other opportunities offered by new technologies for the purposes of culture, co-operation, solidarity and democratic information.
It is time to take action to safeguard the rights of people in the future.
For more information:
Our Website: http://www.peacelink.it
To join our campaign please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Information in English: email@example.com
The text of the PeaceLink appeal is available in Italian and English at: http://www.peacelink.it/censura
P.O box 2009 - 74100 Taranto (Italy)
Ph.no. 0039/ 0349/ 2258342
Fax no. 0039/ 1678/ 2279059
Feel free to download our banner and put it up on your Website
To insert the banner with our appeal in your own Website, you should copy the lines below and paste them in your HTML page in the position where you would like it to appear.
Watch out: the dimensions of this banner are the following WIDTH= 300; HEIGHT= 60
Code to copy:
<A HREF="http://www.peacelink.it/censura/"><IMG SRC="http://www.peacelink.it/censura/banner_no_censura.gif" WIDTH=300 HEIGHT=60 BORDER=0 ALT="L'informazione online ha i giorni contati! Aderisci all'appello per la libertà di espressione in rete."><P></a>
End of code to copy