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Italy; United Nations: Wiretapping Bill Criticized

(July 14, 2010) On July 13, 2010, Frank La Rue, United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, criticized a draft Italian law on wiretapping. The proposed law covers surveillance and eavesdropping in criminal investigations, but some observers are concerned it may limit the work of journalists and impinge on freedom of expression. La Rue has asked for the bill to be either revised or dropped. (Italy: UN Rights Expert Calls for Scrapping of Draft Wiretapping Law, UN NEWS CENTRE (July 13 2010),

As it now stands, the proposed law would sanction the imprisonment for up to four years of anyone who records any communication without consent, unless the person doing the recording is accredited as a journalist. The same penalty could be imposed for publicizing information obtained by such recording. Other provisions establish penalties of up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to €10,000 (about US$12,630)for journalists and of €450,000 (about US$568,270) for publishers for publicizing the contents of leaked wiretapped materials prior to the commencement of a trial. (Id.)

La Rue called the punishments disproportionate to the crimes and stated, “[s]uch a severe penalty will seriously undermine all individuals' right to seek and impart information in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Italy is a party.” He went on to say that the draft law, if enacted, could hinder investigative journalism work in such areas as exposing corruption. (Id., International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted Dec. 16, 1966, and in force from Mar. 23, 1976, (last visited July 13, 2010.)) Journalists and others in Italy have also expressed their concerns about the draft, staging protests on July 9. (UN NEWS CENTRE, supra.)