Politics


Italy: Journalists strike in protest over 'gag law'




Rome, 9 July (AKI) - Italian journalists walked off the job on Friday to protest a bill strongly supported by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to limit news coverage of criminal probes that involve police wiretaps and curb investigators' electronic eavesdropping powers.

Print and broadcast reporters stayed away from work, meaning no papers will be on sale on Saturday. News agencies along with television, radio and news website staff are also holding a “day of silence,” journalists’ union FNSI announced.

A total 57 percent of Italians surveyed in a Sky News poll on Thursday said media was right to strike over the wire tap bill, while 49 percent opposed the strike.

Berlusconi (photo) argues that in Italy, one of the most bugged countries in Europe, publication of phone intercepts and bugged conversations before suspects have been formally charged, prejudices their case.

Under the bill, investigators must get a wiretap warrant from a three-judge panel, instead of one judge previously.

Electronic eavesdropping would be limited to 75 days from as much as 18 months currently. Journalists would risk prison and publishers could be fined as much as 465,000 euros for reporting the content of wiretaps before suspects had been charged.

The bill, dubbed the “gag law” by its critics, was passed in the Senate on 10 June . It is due to be debated in Italy's lower house of parliament or Chamber of Deputies on 29 July.

Berlusconi had hoped to turn the bill into law before parliament breaks up in August for the summer recess.




 

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