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‘Gag law’ in Italy

Question écrite de M. Helmut SCHOLZ - Commission européenne


Subject: ‘Gag law’ in Italy

A law, aptly referred to as the ‘gag law’, is currently being passed in Italy, that will prevent journalists from publishing pre-trial orders, in full or in the form of excerpts, until the end of the preliminary hearing. Without prejudice to the presumption of innocence of defendants until all stages of their trial have been concluded, the gag law constitutes an absurd form of censorship and represents a lack of transparency in the work of the judicial bodies, compromising journalists’ right to report and citizens’ right to be informed. Commission recommendation (EU) 2021/15341 is being violated. Parliament’s Report on the Situation of Fundamental Rights in the European Union 2022 and 2023 (2023/2028(INI)) emphasises ‘the importance of media freedom for defending democracy, holding public and private institutions to account, and giving citizens access to fact-based information’.

1. Is the Commission aware of the serious breach of EU law the gag law constitutes?

2. What action does the Commission intend to take against Italy?

Submitted:19.3.2024

1 Commission Recommendation (EU) 2021/1534 of 16 September 2021 on ensuring the protection, safety and

empowerment of journalists and other media professionals in the European Union, OJ L 331, 20.9.2021, p. 8.

Réponse - Commission européenne

Diffusée le 16 mai 2024

Answer given by Vice-President Jourová on behalf of the European Commission (17 May 2024)

The Commission is informed about the situation.

The Commission attaches equal importance to the protection of the freedom of information and to the respect of the procedural rights for suspects and accused persons in criminal proceedings, which need to be properly balanced.

Directive (EU) 2016/343 (2) on the presumption of innocence provides that Member States should take appropriate measures to ensure that, when they provide information to the media, public authorities do not refer to suspects or accused persons as being guilty for as long as such persons have not been proved guilty according to law. This should be without prejudice to national law protecting the freedom of press and other media.

According to the Commission’s available information, the prohibition to publish all or part of the text of pre-trial custody orders is temporally limited, as it would last only until the end of the preliminary investigations and does not prevent journalists from paraphrasing or summarising the content of such orders.

The Commission is also informed about the journalists’ concerns related to the risk of defamation lawsuits that might arise in case of incorrect reformulations of these orders.

The 2023 Rule of Law Report (3) referred to the challenges concerning the right of access to judicial information and the journalistic coverage of crimes in Italy.

The Commission will continue following closely the developments in this respect, including in the forthcoming 2024 Rule of Law Report.

1 ∙ ⸱ Commission Recommendation (EU) 2021/1534 of 16 September 2021 on ensuring the protection, safety and empowerment of journalists and other media

professionals in the European Union, OJ L 331, 20.9.2021, p. 8. 2 ∙ ⸱

OJ L 65, 11 March 2016, p. 1. 3 ∙ ⸱

https://commission.europa.eu/system/files/2023-07/29_1_52611_coun_chap_italy_en.pdf





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