Rome – Anyone spreading Holocaust denial propaganda in Italy could face prison sentences ranging from two to six years, according to a bill adopted in parliament.
The bill, modifying an existing law that already punished propaganda and incitement to violence on racist, ethnic or religious grounds, also targets those who negate genocide or crimes against humanity, as defined by the International Court of Justice.
It was approved late Wednesday by the Chamber of Deputies, the lower assembly, with 237 votes in favour, 5 against and 102 abstentions.
The president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Renzo Gattegna, issued a statement hailing the vote as “historic.”
He said the law would be “a fundamental new tool in the fight against professional liers, while safeguarding at the same time inalienable principles such as freedom of opinion and research.”
In its final version, the bill punishes ideas “based entirely or partly” on negationist ideology only when “there is a real danger of their dissemination.”
In the run up to its approval, some commentators had criticised the law as limiting freedom of expression.
In an editorial last month, Corriere della Sera columnist Pierluigi Battista wrote that it would be better to counter negationist views with public arguments, rather than through “liberticidal” laws that extend censorship.
“Censorship is an insatiable monster: it constantly extends its boundaries, covering an ever greater number of opinions that are labelled as crimes, which instead may be disgusting, but not criminal,” Battista wrote.