The Lower House justice committee on Wednesday approved a proposed bill that would eliminate prison terms for journalists convicted of defamation.
The bill now goes to the House floor. The supreme Court of Cassation ruled in March 2014 that journalists can’t go to jail for defamation, barring “exceptional circumstances”. Otherwise, the court ruled, their role as “public watchdog” is put in jeopardy. The court said its ruling reflects that of the European Court of Human Rights.
A number of journalists have been sentenced to jail for defamation in Italy in recent years, but none with a higher profile than Alessandro Sallusti.
The editorial director of Il Giornale, which is owned by three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi, was sentenced to a 14-month jail term in 2012, provoking widespread condemnation.
A court had ruled that Sallusti was guilty of printing libellous remarks made by an anonymous reader about a judge in Libero, the right-wing paper he edited in 2007.
The comments concerned a ruling to grant a 13-year-old the right to have an abortion.
His sentence was later commuted by then-President Giorgio Napolitano.