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October 7, 2011

Wikipedia restores Italian pages after media law protest

Protesters take to the streets with tapes covering their mouths to protest against a new proposed bill

By CBR Staff Writer

Wikipedia has restored access to its pages in Italian on Thursday.

The Internet information database had disabled its Italian pages in protest against a privacy law drafted by Silvio Berlusconi’s government, which has been criticised by media rights campaigners.

Wikipedia said the new law was "unacceptable." The law proposes to impose new restrictions on newspapers and Internet pages and curb police wiretaps. It would have legally obliged websites to correct any content if there was a complaint, according to AFP.

The online encyclopedia had also warned that it may it may shut its Italian pages permanently.

After restoring the website, Wikipedia said, "Amendments to the law have been proposed but a modification of the draft has not yet been approved definitively. We therefore do not know if approval of the original draft has been scrapped, an approval that would cancel out all of Wikipedia’s work."

"The very pillars on which Wikipedia has been built – -neutrality, freedom, and verifiability of its contents — are likely to be heavily compromised," said a letter posted by the "Users of Wikipedia" on its site — which was blocked to searches.

"The obligation to publish on our site the correction… without even the right to discuss and verify the claim, is an unacceptable restriction of the freedom and independence of Wikipedia," it said.

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Wikipedia’s warning came on the same day when planned rallies were to take place in Rome. On Wednesday, people gathered near parliament with their mouths taped shut to protest against the law.

Some critics believe that the bill was drafted by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government.

Antonio Di Pietro, the leader of the anti-corruption Italy of Principles party and a blogger, called the proposal "an insult to freedom and democracy. It is a fascist measure."

Prime Minister Berlusconi says the restrictions on the media and websites are required to ensure the rights of private citizens.

Last month, a report by prosecutors investigating a businessman who allegedly supplied prostitutes for parties at Berlusconi’s homes received wide coverage by the media. The report included transcripts in which the prime minister discussed the quantity and qualities of the women, and boasted he had sex with eight in a single night, said the Guardian.

A clause in the new proposal treats blogs as news websites, making bloggers accountable for defamation or misrepresentation. According to the proposed law, a blogger has to respond within 48 hours to anyone who believes they have been defamed or face a fine.

Opposition party member Paolo Gentiloni said, "The sole outcome of such a juridical absurdity would be to put a de facto block on blogs, websites and social networks."

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