Friday, October 07, 2011


News of the Wikipedia Italia  blackout of October 4th, 5th and 6th travelled around the world - slowly, at first, but then it gathered speed and thousands joined the protests.

Italy's politicians, for once, were quick to react, realising, perhaps, that they risked becoming an international laughing stock and that this time it would not be only their Prime Minister who would be the target of the world's satirists.

For those of you who are not familiar with the background to the story, I'll explain as briefly and clearly as I can:  The Intercettazioni  or "Wiretapping Bill", popularly known as the Bavaglio or "Gagging Bill" that is currently being proposed in Italy would make it more difficult for the investigators of criminal cases to tap phones and use the recordings as evidence. "But that seems a good thing", I hear you say, "as it may protect privacy".  Ah, but this is Italy and among the investigations that could turn on such evidence are some that may involve a certain high-profile politician.  Are you with me?

The proposed legislation would also introduce much stricter rules regarding when and how journalists could report such evidence and this week a government amendment, under which journalists who report "irrelevant" tapped conversations could be jailed for up to three years, caused the resignation of Giulia Bongiorno, the lawyer who was overseeing the Bill's passage through Parliament.    If you are wondering where you have heard this lawyer's name before, it is because she is also famous as the appeal hearing lawyer of Raffaele Sollecito.

As if this were not enough, the Bill also contained a section, referred to as comma 29, under which anyone writing on the web in Italy would have to retract and "correct" any statement they had made which offended anyone at all or face a hefty fine and the closure of their site.  Therefore the clause was given the nickname ammazza blog ["the kill-blog"].  The neutrality and independence of websites such as Wikipedia Italia would also be threatened by the clause and for this reason the site's users staged the blackout protest.

We had to wait until late last night for an amendment to be proposed but when it came all who love knowledge and freedom of speech in Italy breathed a collective sigh of relief.  Under this amendment the "retraction and correction" requirement would not apply to sites such as Wikipedia or to ordinary blogs.  However, it would still apply to registered newspapers and periodicals online so press freedom is far from guaranteed.

The amendment has to be debated in Parliament from next Wednesday so, although Wikipedia Italia has been back up from today, the following statement appears at the top of its pages:

"Sono stati proposti degli emendamenti, ma le modifiche al disegno di legge non sono ancora state approvate in via definitiva. Non sappiamo, quindi, se sia ormai scongiurata l'approvazione della norma nella sua formulazione originaria, approvazione che vanificherebbe gran parte del lavoro fatto su Wikipedia".

"Amendments have been proposed but the changes to the Bill have not yet been definitively approved.  Therefore we do not yet know if approval of the law in its original form has been avoided.   If it has not, such approval would nullify much of the work done on Wikipedia."
[My translation.]

Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia said, in this interview for the International Festival of Journalism,

"The Italian community has stood up for the fundamental human right of free expression. This affects everyone. All governments are on notice: we’re here, the citizens of the world, and you can’t silence us any more."

As a blogger and a lover of freedom I would like to take this opportunity to thank Wikipedia for its wonderful work and the users of Wikipedia Italia for bringing the world's attention to what has been going on here.


Jenny Woolf said...

How the internet is changing the world in so many ways. never cease to be amazed

DayDreamer said...

Let's just hope the bill gets properly approved. What were they thinking to bring in this Bavaglio? No need to answer that, as I can imagine who was behind it really.

LindyLouMac said...

Positive news hopefully :)

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I agree, Jenny. Hi, Daydreamer. Exactly. I hope so too, LindyLouMac.

Gledwood said...

Ou la la! La politica! (Did I guess that right? (The bit in italics?))

Bloody hell I don't know what to say. You know why I want to live abroad?

Because as you well know being a stranger in a strange land a certain degree of tact is called for when discussing one's host nation's politics. It's a little bit like staying with a family and getting involved in their disputes: you just don't do it.

So i'd feel honoured to be able to live somewhere yet have less right (but not no right) to comment on matters I feel irritating. I'd just rather live with a new set of irritations not voted in my my own contemporaries.

I'm watching Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. Now can I ask you something as a one-time professeuse de francais... which you were, weren't you? Isn't colloquial French as heard in films etc FAR harder to follow than German, Italian or any other euro-dialect you care to mention? I definitely think so. Obviously the written language more than makes up for this by being something of an ultra-stately version of English but the babble..! Entire sentences garbled into half-spat-out syllables!

I'm learning Spanish so I can go to the Costa Del Sol with an Advantage: yes I shall know more than "por favor" "hola" and whatever goodbye is (we haven't come to that yet). I bought a Linguaphone plus course on ebay for £35 which ain't bad for 4 books, 8 CDs and 2400 words vocab.

Plus the internet cafe guy kindly unscrewed my computer and fixed the dickie hard drive so I'm wirelessly enabled once more!!

I hope all is OK with you and sorry if that bus stop comment was a bit OTT you know what I'm like. I'm not proud of it, I just have to accept myself like an irritating auntie who came to stay in 1972 and still hasn't moved out....

Gledwood said...

ps what did you think of the Amanda Knox case? It got massive publicity over here but I was too distracted and computerless to post on it.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Gleds. Nice to hear from you. I can't get into your blog because every time I try, I get a malware warning. I don't think colloquial French is any harder to follow than any other language spoken colloquially, no. What bus stop comment? Don't remember. I may comment on the Knox case in a post later this week. x


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