Some Remarks by the Italian Representative at the Human Rights Council on the Report on the Situation of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression in Italy

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL, 26th SESSION, INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE PROMOTION OF THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND OPINION, 10 JUNE 2014.

On 29 April 2014, the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression published a report on the situation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in Italy. In the report, he pointed out some concerns regarding the compliance of the national legal framework with the relevant international standards. On 10 June 2014, the Italian Representative considered some of the shortcomings mentioned in the report, e.g. the issues of defamation, conflict of interest, anti-trust regulation, and hate speech. He said:

Italy remains firmly committed to uphold the freedom of expression and opinion at international and national level. We share the Special Rapporteur’s remark that such a freedom is at the heart of the promotion and protection of human rights, crucial for the safeguard of human dignity.

On the issue of defamation, he said:

Recently, the Italian Institutions have increased efforts to update the balance between the protection of the honor and reputation of individuals, and the protection of freedom of expression and opinion. A new Bill, currently before the Senate for final examination, amends the current legislation, inter alia, by abolishing imprisonment as a sanction for defamation, and strengthening the mechanisms to discourage frivolous litigations.

As to the issue of conflict of interest, he pointed out that:

The existing solid legislation governing conflicts of interest is under scrutiny of the Parliament with the aim of further improving its efficacy. At present, two independent administrative Authorities, whose members “shall be selected from representatives with relevant recognized highly professional skills”, are responsible for overseeing and preventing conflicts of interest in the press and media sector. […]

With reference to anti-trust and pluralism, he noted:

Italy shares the view that the protection of media diversity and pluralism is of paramount importance to ensure the freedom of expression and opinion. Indeed, the national anti-trust thresholds in the Integrated Communications System complements the EU legislation aimed at preventing dominant position in respective media markets. Furthermore, the recent start-up of terrestrial digital broadcasting led to a five-fold increase in the number of channels free of charge, so enhancing pluralism and making Italy one of the countries with the highest number of channels ever.

With regard to hate speech, he said:

Italy is strongly committed to eradicate hate speech and any stigmatisation of ethnic or social groups. Preventive and punitive measures have been taken, paying great attention to the victims: instigation to racial hatred is severely punished by the Criminal Code; the Ministry of Education has developed specific educational programmes; relevant institutions have been provided with tools to prevent hate speech and assist victims.

The full text of the Representative’s speech can be found at:

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/HRCRegistration.aspx (registration required)

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