From 4 to 6 April 2022, a delegation of the MFRR was in Italy for a fact-finding mission focused on two main topics: defamation and future legislative developments against SLAPPs on one side and the safety of journalists and State protection measures on the other. In 3 days there were 8 meetings in 2 regions (Rome and Campania), with 11 MFRR participants.
The fact-finding mission provided the MFRR with an opportunity to assess the legislative delays that are preventing Parliament from responding to the repeated calls of the Constitutional Court in reforming defamation laws, and to get to know the coordinated State monitoring and protection system implemented in Italy for intimidation acts against journalists, a good practice mentioned in a recent Recommendation of the European Commission.
The MFRR fact-finding mission to Italy presented a unique opportunity for a deep dive into two sets of substantial challenges faced by the journalistic community: violence, intimidation, and other threats emanating from organised crime, and legal threats in the shape of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) and other abusive lawsuits. Throughout our meetings with local stakeholders, it was confirmed that, taken together, these threats serve to undermine independent and critical journalism and the freedom of the press in the country while having a significant detrimental impact on individual journalists’ safety and their professional and private lives. While the mission identified several good practices and positive developments that show recognition of the problem and a way forward towards its resolution, each needs further action to ensure a truly free and safe working environment for Italy’s journalistic community.