Only a journalist can run a website in Italy?

On May, 8 2008 the Court of Modica (Sicily) ruled that a website identified by a “heading” and publishing contents on a periodic basis is subjected to the regulation of newspapers or magazines and – in general – or in ? press.

The result is that an anti-mafia webmaster has been indicted for committing the crime of “clandestine publication” because he didn’t request the Tribunal’s authorisation to publish his site www.accadeinsicilia.net.

The “Catch 22” comes because to obtain this authorisation, this webmaster should have been a journalist, member of the national journalist association or the permit wouldn’t be granted. Then, nobody but a journalist can run a website, because nobody but a journalist can obtain the Court registration.

The legal paradox is a consequence of the fact that, before the internet came, publisihing a newspaper meant investing huge money in equipment, people, distribution etc. Thus it was easy for ? “power” to control the press with a series of adminstrative burdens. Now, with the free availability of content management system like WordPress, and the low cost of internet-based services, ? publishing a magazine is absolutely affordable. So the “power” – namely, Law 62/01 – tried in a very messy way to reassert its control over the information flow.

It is simply a nonsense affirm that since a website has a “heading” and publishes daily information, then it is a newspaper. Following this line of reasoning, it is enough – to not infringe the law – to “restrain” from publishing on due dates… Killing free speech starts from here.

EU Censorship Italian Style…

Here we are. Words are spreading that EU will push to enforce “censorship on words”. On 10 Sept., 2007 Reuters quoted a statement made by EU Commissioner Franco Frattini (Italian, sadly) who claimed:

 ?I do intend to carry out a clear exploring exercise with the private sector … on how it may be possible to use technology to prevent people from using or searching dangerous words like bomb, kill, genocide or terrorism ?.

I can think of no better comment on that, but the one made by ALCEI:

Mr. Frattini’s suggestion is unacceptable, extremely dangerous and a serious threat against free speech. The “internet-teaches-how-to-make bombs” nonsense has been around since the net’s early years. Along with “copyright infringements” and misrepresented child protection urges – as ALCEI denounced over ten years ago. The “internet-bomb” issue has always been one of the excuses to invoke censorship and repression.

It is obvious – and largely proven by facts – that “filtering” or “prohibiting” words or concepts is totally useless against criminals, while it turns into a weapon to kill freedom of information and expression. Preventing all citizens from discussing controversial topics doesn’t reduce violence, murder or terrorism.

Peter Fleischer’s answer (Google’s Global Privacy Counsel) – as quoted by the Italian newspaper Repubblica.it – is not less concerning:

“There are a lot of reason why sombody might want to search on the Internet a word like “genocide”, for teaching purposes, say. According to Fleischer, the problem is to prevent some information to be released on line – such the bomb-making-how-to”. “But if a page is no the web” – he said – “Google must be allowed to search for it” (Translation from Italian by Andrea Monti. Please check the link above for the original text.)

It seems that Google might cope with censorship, as soon as the net is not affected.

Am I wrong?