Defamation penalty in Italy needs to be considered for its effect on free expression, OSCE media representative says

83944VIENNA, 26 May 2016 – The Italian Senate should consider pending legislation that would increase the maximum penalty to 9 years in jail for criminally defaming elected officials and judges in light of its effect on free expression, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović said today.

The current maximum penalty is 6 years.

“This initiative is detrimental because jail terms are a disproportionate punishment for defamation,” Mijatović said. “To increase the penalty creates a chilling effect that is harmful to investigative journalism.”

Defamation laws should not be tools for politicians and those in authority to silence critical voices, she added, noting that public figures should withstand a higher degree of scrutiny and criticism because of their public roles.

Mijatović has long campaigned for the complete decriminalization in the OSCE region.

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom, Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on www.facebook.com/osce.rfom.

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