Italian Constitutional Court

Progress in Italy to abolish prison sentences for criminal defamation

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) welcomes the decision by the Italian Constitutional Court to refer a decision on whether to abolish prison sentences for criminal defamation in relation to journalists and media workers to the Italian Parliament.

Following the MFRR statement of 5th June, the Italian Constitutional Court held a public hearing into the constitutional legitimacy of Article 595 of the penal code and Article 13 of the law on the press, which allows for prison sentences to be passed down to journalists in relation to criminal defamation cases. On Tuesday 9th June the Court ruled that while reform was necessary, it was the responsibility of Parliament to amend the legislation. This effectively postponed the Court’s decision for one year, stipulating that if Parliament has not passed legislation to amend the law by 22 June 2021, then the Court itself will abolish prison sentences. As part of this process, the Court has temporarily suspended prison sentences for journalists convicted of criminal defamation. This applies to both ongoing criminal proceedings and all pending cases.

The MFRR partners cautiously welcomed this ruling as part of a larger reform of both criminal and civil defamation in Italy.