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The Italy's Senate's Passage of the Wiretap Bill and Its Implications

By Andrew Cho
The Digest, Associate Editor

In their Wall Street Journal article entitled Italy's Senate Approves Wiretap Bill, Stacy Meichtry and Margherita Stancati provide that Italy's Senate approved a wiretap bill that “restricts the use of wiretaps by prosecutors and introduces fines and prison sentences for journalists who issue reports on tapped conversations.”

Meichtry and Stancati provide not only the substance of the draft law, but also the effect the draft law has on the general broad authority of Italian prosecutors in using wiretaps to fight crime. For instance, Meichtry and Stancati illustrate that Italian newspapers frequently report by citing wiretapped phone calls of government officials, businessmen, and celebrities. Meichtry and Stancati further wrote that while the draft law's restrictions on phone taps do not apply to investigations of the mafia or terrorist networks, the draft law requires prosecutors, in investigating other criminal activities, to present “'grave evidence of a crime' to a panel of judges for approval.”

Meichtry and Stancati further illustrate that the draft law also introduced time limits on how long a phone line can be tapped. Meichtry and Stancati also provide that under the draft law, publishers would be fined of up to €450,000 ($540,000) for publishing reports on wiretapped conversations and leaks of police interrogations. Meichtry and Stancati further provide that under the draft law, journalists who report such material would be subject to prison sentences of up to 30 days and fines of up to €10,000.

Meichtry and Stancati further report that the Senate's passage of the bill has displeased many Italian prosecutors, newspapers, and opposing lawmakers. Meichtry and Stancati provide that while the bill was aimed to safeguard the privacy of Italians as Mr. Berlusconi claimed, critics of the bill argue that the bill is to “weaken the judiciary branch's investigative powers and muzzle criticism of the prime minister in Italian media.”

For more information, please see:

Stacy Meichtry and Margherita Stancati, Italy's Senate Approves Wiretap Bill, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, Jun. 14, 2010, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703627704575298771076540944.html.