There will be no news in Italy today; or, at least, hardly any. That is not a prediction, but fact: none of the main newspapers are appearing because their reporters and editors are on a 24-hour strike. Today they are due to be joined by radio, TV and some internet journalists. The action is over a parliamentary bill proposing a law that Silvio Berlusconi’s government claims safeguards privacy. Most of Italy’s editors, judges and prosecutors say it is intended to shield politicians, and particularly the prime minister, whose career has been ridden with financial and sexual scandals. The so-called “gagging law” would curb the ability of police and prosecutors to record phone conversations and plant listening devices. It would also stop journalists publishing the resulting transcripts. Investigators seeking to listen in on a suspect would need permission from three judges. Regardless of circumstances, eavesdropping warrants would expire after 75 days, after which they must be renewed every three days. The media would only be able to publish a summary of the findings of an investigation after it had ended.
One of Italy’s top news readers has dramatically quit her job on state-funded television after claiming its coverage was biased in favour of the media mogul and premier, Silvio Berlusconi. Maria Luisa Busi, who presented the flagship evening TG1 news show on the Rai 1 channel, reportedly told bosses what she thought of the programme’s editorial line in a frank letter pinned to a notice board. Her abrupt departure at the weekend follows a series of clashes with TG1 editor Augusto Minzolini, who was hand-picked for the job by Mr Berlusconi. TG1’s editorial committee expressed unease “about the direction Augusto Minzolini has made TG1 take”. The veteran journalist and Rai president, Paolo Garimberti, added: “Maria Luisa Busi’s decision is another worrying signal of a situation that requires maximum attention from the company’s top management.” In addition to controlling three of Italy’s seven terrestrial TV channels as part of his Mediaset empire, Mr Berlusconi, as prime minister, exercises considerable influence on senior appointments at the state-owned, rival broadcaster, Rai. And it was to address what he felt was left-wing bias that Mr Berlusconi pushed for Mr Minzolini’s appointment last year. Since then, accusations of pro-government bias against Mr Minzolini have emerged
Italian PM placed under investigation by magistrates after wiretap
Silvio Berlusconi has been placed under investigation by Italian magistrates on suspicion of pressuring Italy’s media watchdog to block transmission of a state television talk show he considered hostile, it was reported on Monday. The announcement, by the news service Ansa, came as figures released by the Italian parliament revealed that the prime minister’s income, partly derived from private TV channels, had shot up to €23m (£21m) last year from €14.5m in 2008. The investigation was prompted by wiretaps, which allegedly reveal Berlusconi urging Giancarlo Innocenzi, a senior member of a parliament-appointed watchdog, to “shut down” the show, Annozero, broadcast on Italy’s state RAI network. RAI has suspended all political talk shows, including Annozero, before the regional elections this month, ostensibly to guarantee balance. Innocenzi, a former journalist at Berlusconi’s Mediaset network, is under investigation for denying to magistrates that he was pressured by Berlusconi. After the leaked wiretaps were published on Friday, the justice minister, Angelino Alfano, said he would send inspectors to quiz the magistrates handling the inquiry to discover if they were justified in bugging the prime minister, and how the transcripts were leaked.
Three Google executives were convicted of violating Italian privacy laws on Wednesday, the first case to hold the company’s executives criminally responsible for the content posted on its system. The verdict, though subject to appeal, could have sweeping implications worldwide for Internet freedom: It suggests that Google is not simply a tool for its users, as it contends, but is effectively no different from any other media company, like newspapers or television, that provides content and could be regulated. The ruling further complicates the business environment for Google in Europe, where it faces a wave of antitrust complaints. The Italian move to hold the company or its executives responsible for text, photographs or videos made available by third parties through Google and its online services, like YouTube, poses a significant challenge to the company’s business model, along with those of other Internet companies like Facebook and Twitter. In Italy, where Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi owns most private media and indirectly controls public media, there is a strong push to regulate the Internet more assertively than it is controlled elsewhere in Europe. Several measures are pending in Parliament that seek to impose various controls on the Internet. Critics of Mr. Berlusconi say the measures go beyond routine copyright questions and are a way to stave off competition from the Web to public television stations and his own private channels – and to keep a tighter grip on public debate
Silvio Berlusconi’s supporters in the Italian parliament Wednesday night outraged opposition MPs and journalists with a controversial clampdown on political talk shows ahead of next month’s regional elections. The ruling PDL Party’s majority on the parliamentary watchdog that oversees public broadcaster RAI forced through rules that mean the state broadcaster’s most popular talk shows will have to scrap their political content – or face a transfer from mid-evening to graveyard shifts. Programmes such as Ballarò and Annozero, which have frequently held Mr Berlusconi to account for alleged sex scandals and even Mafia links, will be the main victims of the month-long clamp down that prompted accusations of censorship. Political content will be allowed – but only if all 30 or so parties standing in the elections are represented on every show, which programme-makers said would make their formats unworkable. The rules will apply from 28 February until 28 March, when the country’s regional elections are held. The Prime Minister, whose Mediaset empire owns three of the six principal Italian terrestrial TV channels – some of which have been censured for pro-government bias – has often complained that RAI shows attack him unfairly. But Fabrizio Morri of the opposition Democratic Party said the ruling centre-right coalition had “voted for the suppression of journalistic analysis”.
Internet companies and civil liberty groups have voiced alarm over a proposed Italian law which would make online service providers responsible for their audiovisual content and copyright infringements by users. The draft, due to be approved next month, would make Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Fastweb and Telecom Italia, and websites like Google’s YouTube, responsible for monitoring TV content on their pages, industry experts say. It comes as Google’s YouTube unit is engaged in a legal battle with Mediaset, controlled by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Italy’s largest media group wants EUR 500m in damages from YouTube for copyright infringement. The proposed regulations would make Internet sites as liable as television stations for their content and subject to hefty fines by the AGCOM media watchdog, according to a 33-page draft. Italy’s parliament, which is holding consultations with civil groups and Internet associations, is due to present a non-binding opinion to Silvio Berlusconi’s government by early February. Raffaele Nardacchione, director of the Asstel association of telecommunications providers which represents ISPs like Fastweb and Tiscali, said the decree far exceeded the terms of the original European directive by extending the definition of audiovisual media to Internet firms and by tightening copyright.The draft decree only requires presidential approval. EU sources told Reuters Tuesday that the Commission could open an investigation into the decree for infringing EU norms.
In a blatant attempt to insert themselves into Silvio Berlusconi’s nether regions his right wing halfwit fans who hold high public office have decided to call the Internet social networking site Facebook to public account for allowing an anti-Berlusconi group to celebrate the recent attack on Italy’s ageing and rather repugnant lothario PM.
The popular Internet social networking site, Facebook, is seeking a meeting with Italian senate speaker Renato Schifani to discuss the controversy over the site that arose after the attack on the prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Director of European public policy for Facebook, Richard Allan, has sent a letter to Schifani requesting a meeting after he accused Facebook of an “instigation to violence” after the attack. On Thursday, Schifani which holds the country’s second highest office said that Facebook is more dangerous than the terrorist groups of the 1970s. The Berlusconi attack created a fierce debate among thousands of supporters and opponents on the social networking site Facebook and the government has blamed it for being a factor in the attack against the premier. After the attack on Berlusconi on Sunday, Italy’s interior minister Roberto Maroni signalled tighter legislative measures to control Internet sites in a bid to reduce what it says is a “climate of violence” that caused Sunday’s attack. The attack on Berlusconi occurred only a week after several hundred thousand people took to the streets of Rome for a protest entitled “No Berlusconi Day”. It was largely organised mainly online through internet social networks