Defamation Laws In Italy

Italian defamation law
Slander and Libel Laws In Italy

Articles 594 and 595 of the Italian Penal Code state defamation can be a civil or criminal offense. If the latter, it is punishable by imprisonment ranging between six months and three years.

Under Article 157 of the Italian Penal Code, the action shall prescribe corresponding to the maximum penalty as expressly stated under Articles 594 and 595 of the Italian Penal Code.  By way of illustration, Injury as punishable under Article 594 shall prescribe in six months; Defamation as punishable under Article 595 shall prescribe in three (3) years.

In a report by Article IX, criminal defamation provisions in the Italian Penal Code and its application has been incompatible with basic democratic ideals as well as international guarantees of freedom of expression. These standards establish a fact that “although reputation must be protected from any harm done, it cannot be compensated by sending journalists to jail.”    Article IX recommends for the repeal of the criminal defamation laws in Italy, believing that “the reform of the criminal defamation provisions in Italy is long overdue.”  This is due to the fact that Article 595 of the 1930 Penal Code of Italy was drawn up at a time when freedom of expression was not seen as a right. The original aim of all criminal defamation laws then was to make criticism against monarchs a criminal offence and to silence dissent. Today, defamation is considered a private matter between two individuals with few public consequences; therefore, any criminal law or regulation with the potential for imprisonment, is inappropriate.

In contrast to U.S., Italian courts protect the nation’s public figures, national organizations and institutions. They’re also not afraid to sentence journalists to prison. Italian courts believe statements that are overly critical about public figures can be viewed as defamatory because they have the potential to undermine public confidence.  By way of illustration, the Italian Court have indicted Amanda Knox’s parents for defamation for alleging in a 2008 newspaper interview that Italian police abused Amanda and was allegedly subjected to physical and verbal abuse during a police interrogation in 2007.

Most defamation cases in the U.S. are civil in nature. This means a plaintiff in many state-side defamation suits will recover monetary damages. However, the defendant that loses the case will not receive a prison sentence.  In Italy, defamation is prosecuted much more frequently as protected speech, even against public figures such as politicians. Moreover, the police corps is more narrowly defined than in the United States.