By G8 standards, Italy is a strange country. Put simply, it is a nation of octogenarian lawmakers elected by 70-year-old pensioners. Everyone else is inconsequential.
In the aptly titled A geriatric assault on Italy’s bloggers, Bernhard Warner from the Times Onlines rails against the proposed new law in Italy that would require require all bloggers, and even users of social networks, to register with the state.
As Bernhard goes on to note in a follow up post:
Blogs (not all blogs, I realise, but enough) serve a unique function in a civil society. When done well, they can be the eyes and ears of a community. If bloggers are doing their job, they introduce a fresh layer of accountability into a community. In such a place, there are no untouchables. The mayor, the football manager, the police chief, the local bank, they are all on notice. If they start abusing their position, a flag goes up and a blogger begins his reportage, alerting the community to an alleged transgression.
And yes, this runs both ways. Bloggers should be held as accountable for their words and actions, for things like fairness and accuracy and transparency, just as we do with the mayor and the football coach and the wrong-headed politician and his poorly conceived laws.
The problem here is this. Just as the US is berated for its human rights record under the Bush administration and any concern regarding the human rights record of governments in countries such as Sri Lanka as immediately and conveniently dismissed as hypocrisy, this proposed law vitiates media freedom worldwide by the perception it creates. The perception that a government in the EU can and will enact such legislation gives unnecessary wind to the parochial and downright dangerous plans of repressive governments in countries where civil liberties, human rights and the very timbre of democracy are highly suspect at best.
The reality may be that Italians while drown their sorrows in vino and ultimately have recourse to EU laws or just plain ignore the legislation, for the rest of us, this law sets a precedent that is terribly ominous should our governments decide to follow suit.