OPC Urges Italian Legislators to Kill Wiretap Bill

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Italy

The Honorable Gianfranco Fini
President
Camera Dei Deputati (Chamber of Deputies)
Palazzo Montecitorio
Piazza del Parlemento 26
00186 Rome
Republic of Italy

Dear Mr. Fini:

We at the Overseas Press Club of America write to voice our profound concern over the proposed so-called, “wiretap bill,” that the Chamber of Deputies is to review starting on July 29. This proposed legislation, despite the widespread disapproval of the police, the press, the magistrates and the general public was accepted by the Senate but should be forcefully refused by the House. We argue:

  • The bill, which restricts the rights of prosecutors and police to plant bugs and record conversations, limits the ability of your citizens’ designated protectors to insure their safety and well-being and seriously impacts credibility. Probes are limited to 75 days, and not the present 18 months. Criminals would be pleased to enjoy freedom from detection. Both high technology and careful, slow probes are primary tools in the protection and prevention of crime and its spread. Magistrates have declared that the bill would impede their efforts to fight criminals both locally and nationally.
  • Journalists, expressly granted freedom of expression by Article 21 of your Constitution, would be subject to prison terms for printing leaked tapes, or even summaries from any source, before court hearings, and publishers would be then fined exorbitant sums for distributing the material. This is a serious breach of media freedom to seek the truth and to speak and write about it, and should be considered an illegitimate constitutional infringement.
  • Such restrictions and suppression resonate globally - as democratic nations need to share intelligence to fight international terrorism and crime as well.

 

Mr. Fini, your prime minister has declared of the extensive wire-tapping in your country: “We are all spied upon. We do not realize this is not a civilized country. This is not a democracy.” In itself, this is an astonishing concession, which we do not believe most of your countrymen would endorse. In addition, his argument is that this bill, which he sponsored and supports, protects the average citizen from intrusive action into his private life. The illogic is that it also leaves your average citizen more vulnerable to crime and ignorant of its potential destructiveness. No, this is not a democratic bill; and yes, the vote of the Chamber against it will re-affirm Italy's determination to be a leading democracy.

We respectfully remind you that the world is watching this vote. The OSCE has argued that the bill would limit its awareness of controversial sources and materials; the EU authorities speak of “intervention” should this bill be approved; journalists world-wide dispute the bill’s legitimacy, as do we. The Overseas Press Club of America has fought for and promoted freedom of the media for over seven decades. We urge you to hear our voice.

We would appreciate a reply.

Respectfully yours,
Jacqueline Albert-Simon
Larry Martz
Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:

H.E. Silvio Berlusconi
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
Palazzo Chigi
Palaceza Colonna
Rome 0040
Republic of Italy
Fax: (011.39.6) 679.6894

H.E. Giulio Terzi de Sant’Angelo
Ambassador of Italy to U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic of Italy
3000 Whitehaven Street, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 518.2154

Ambassador Cesare Maria Regaglinir
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission the Republic of Italy to the United Nations
885 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 486.1036

H.E. David Thorne
U.S. Ambassador to Italy
Embassy of the United States of America
Via Veneta 126/9
Rome 00157
Italy

Director
Associanze Stampa Estera
Via della Mercede
Rome 55 00187
Italy

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