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    NPR: Italy’s Government Tries To Limit Wiretap Powers

    National Public Radio has a story about privacy and free speech in Italy:

    In the name of protecting citizens’ privacy, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is pushing a bill that would severely restrict police use of wiretaps and impose harsh jail terms on journalists who report the contents of bugged conversations. But free speech advocates are up in arms, and prosecutors say it would undermine efforts to combat organized crime and terrorism. […]

    But if the Berlusconi government gets its way, Italian investigators will virtually be deprived use of electronic surveillance.

    Last week, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer voiced concern that restrictive wiretap rules could harm joint U.S.-Italian investigations into narcotrafficking, money laundering and terrorism. […]

    Berlusconi, a media mogul, is under pressure — along with some members of his Cabinet — from several corruption investigations. And Stefano Rodota, a leading jurist and Italy’s first privacy commissioner, said Berlsconi wants to stop embarrassing transcripts from appearing in the media.

    “The real aim of this law is to control all media, avoiding any publications of information about what judges are discovering on criminals, financial affairs, etc.,” Rodata said. “This is an attack on what in the U.S. is called free speech of the First Amendment.” […]

    The bill, which includes hefty fines for media owners and prison terms for journalists, has unified Italy’s highly polarized media. In an unprecedented meeting by teleconference, editors of all major papers joined forces and demanded that the bill be scrapped.

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