Italy mulls ban of online fascist propaganda

ROME-  Italy's Chamber of Deputies has started discussions over a new law under which fascist propaganda would become a punishable offence. The proposal was made by the Democratic Party (Partito Democratico) and aims to prohibit the production and sale of propaganda containing certain images and content relating to fascism and Nazism.

Last week, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement expressed their crticism to the Committee of Constitutional Affairs, who were dealing with the law at the time. They criticised the proposal as being “fundamentally anti-freedom”. No leader figure of the Five Star Movement has publicly expressed their views on the measure. Their views were revealed by a Facebook post by Emanuele Fiano, the Democratic Party politician who was the first to sign the law's proposal. He posted a photograph of the document authored by the Five Star Movement in which they air their “anti-freedom” criticism. He wrote: “the Five Star Movement will vote against [the law], maintaining that it is anti-freedom. I want to thank them for their frankness, the difference between our ideas is a source of pride for me”.

Matteo Renzi has publically hit back at those criticising the new law. He said “fascism was anti-freedom, not the law on the apologia of fascism”. On the centre-right, however, the chief whip of Forza Italia in the Chamber, Renato Brunetta, condemned the new law for political discrimination. He said that if fascist propaganda were to be banned, communist propaganda should be too.  The Leader of the Northern League (Lega Nord), Matteo Salvini, criticised the law by saying that “good or bad ideas can be disputed but never tamed”.

The proposed law’s submission, as found on the Chamber’s website, explains that it would be an addition to the so-called Scelba and Mancino laws in place which are rarely ever used due to their specificity. It reads: “the Scelba law punishes various organisations and groups of people aiming to reorganise the dissolved Fascist party” or “pursuing the antidemocratic objective of the Fascist party”. The current laws do not sanction “simpler or more impromptu acts… for example the roman salute, which doesn’t aim to form an organisation or pursue an anti-democratic objective”. The 1952 law does not address fascist support online too. Fiano’s law would extend to all types of anti-fascist propaganda and so address the gaps in the current law.

In March 2015, four football fans from Verona were acquitted after doing a roman salute on the basis that the current laws do not criminalise the gest itself.

This proposal has gathered much attention in light of the closing down of a pro-fascist beach club in Chioggia on Sunday. Under the proposed law, the owner would risk jail time.