If you click onto the Wikipedia Italian home page currently, you will be greeted by this welcoming message:

“Dear reader, At this time, the Italian language Wikipedia may be no longer able to continue providing the service that over the years was useful to you, and that you expected to have right now. As things stand, the page you want still exists and is only hidden, but the risk is that soon we will be forced to actually delete it.”

Wikipedia’s decision stems from a law proposed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi known as “DDL Intercettazioni,” or the Wiretapping Act, currently being debated in Italian Parliament.

As it stands, the Bill would restrict everything the “neutral, free-content, and—above all—independent source of Knowledge” stands for.

Page 24, Paragraph 29, Letter A of the Bill states:

“For the Internet sites, including newspapers and periodicals delivered by telematic way, the statements or corrections are published, with the same graphic characteristics, the same access methodology to the site and the same visibility of the news which they refer.”

The one thing the law further restricts, as Wikipedia’s message states, is that since “the law does not require an evaluation of the claim by an impartial third judge… anyone who feels offended by any content published on a blog, an online newspaper and, most likely, even on Wikipedia can directly request to publish a ‘corrected’ version, aimed to contradict and disprove the allegedly harmful contents, regardless of the truthfulness of the information deemed as offensive, and its sources.”

With defamation of character already covered by Article 595 of the Criminal Code in Italy, “DDL Intercettazioni” would potentially create, as Wikipedia states, a “paralysis of the ‘horizontal’ method of access and editing.”

Neutrality and verifiability of information is what Wikipedia prides itself on, and I am proud that they’ve quickly taken a stance against Berlusconi’s proposed restrictions. The Bill is yet another in a long line of the extensive media control the Prime Minister has been able to obtain throughout his “dictatorship” from his business dealings. Long criticized for Italy’s alleged limited freedom of expression, he was most recently declared by Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard as “on the verge of being added to our list of Predators of Press Freedom.” The Economist also recently published this past June a scathing article titled, “The man who screwed an entire country.”

As Wikipedia asks at the end of their message, they’re “already neutral,” so why neutralize it?

Photograph by Ricardo Stuckert of Agencia Brasil.

Justin Alvarez

José Castrellón is a Panamanian photographer who identifies with cultural changes and the impact they have on different places. For more of his work, including Priti Baiks, check out his website. Justin Alvarez is an editorial assistant at Guernica. Read more about him here.

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