Italy Freedom and Rights
According to Freedom House’s Freedom in the World report, Italy is a free country. The country obtained the best possible score in relation to political pluralism, the possibility of participation in the electoral process and the functioning of the government apparatus. The same score, after several years of value 2, was achieved in relation to civil liberties, ie freedom of expression and religion; association rights; rule of law ; individual rights. As regards freedom of speech and of the press, it is constitutionally guaranteed.
There are many newspapers and periodicals, most of them on a local basis, while the main newspapers are linked to large publishing groups or parties. However, the influence of former Prime Minister Berlusconi on the media remains exceptional and controversialboth within state TV and through Mediaset, the private group he founded and controlled by his family, although from 2013 onwards Berlusconi seems to be more secluded than the national political scene. With few exceptions, in recent years there has been a polarization of the press around two extreme positions: some newspapers have taken a stiff critical position on the work and private life of the premier; others clearly took sides in defense of the then Prime Minister. Relations between the government and the media became particularly tense in the summer of 2009, when the Catholic newspaper L’Avvenire openly criticized the premier’s moral conduct in private life. In response, the newspaper « Il Giornale, Owned by the Berlusconi family, launched a campaign aimed at discrediting the director of « Avvenire », who was eventually forced to resign. In the same period, the L’Espresso group sued the premier for defamation, after the latter had defined the newspaper ” La Repubblica Subversive and had incited the sponsors to boycott. Again in 2009, the bill aimed at banning the publication of wiretapping without the permission of the judge raised an intense debate. After almost a year of controversy, in June 2010 the Chamber ratified an amendment that allows the publication of those wiretapping that are considered relevant by the so-called filter hearing, or those used by the prosecutor to motivate precautionary orders or search orders.
Turning to freedom of religion, this too is guaranteed by the Constitution. Although the Catholic denomination is dominant and the Catholic Church enjoys particular benefits, there is no official state religion. The government has signed agreements with various religious groups, to which it provides aid in proportion to their diffusion; compared to other countries, however, there is no general law on freedom of religion. Furthermore, given the influence (not only moral) of the Vatican in the public life of the country, some critical voices have risen to affirm a clearer and more substantial separation between state and church. However, this issue does not seem to meet with public opinion: an example is the substantially negative reaction to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which in November 2009 ruled against the display of crucifixes in school classrooms. Freedom of association and the right to strike are also guaranteed by the Constitution. About 35% of the workforce is union members. Regarding the rule of law, the judicial system is impartial and independent, but suffers from the chronic slowness of the trials. Torture is illegal, but some human rights organizations have accused law enforcement of having exceeded the use of force in some circumstances, particularly against illegal immigrants. Starting from 2009, the measures adopted within the so-called ‘security package’ introduced a new type of crime, that of illegal immigration, on which there was a wide debate, until the abolition of this crime scheduled for 2016..
The gender equality it is, at least formally, guaranteed: the maternity allowance usually corresponds to five months of abstention from work at full salary. The opportunities for access to education and entry into the world of work also place the country among the first among industrialized countries. Nonetheless, the unemployment rate among mothers is significantly higher than for childless women and even more so than for single women: nearly 20% of women leave or lose their jobs when their first child is born. In addition, there remains a significant difference in treatment for equal employment compared to men. Finally, the presence of women in political institutions remains limited: in the last parliamentary elections, women made up only 21% of the deputies. A last relevant aspect concerns the corruption, a constant problem in Italian politics, despite the blow to the ruling class of the First Republic brought about by the ‘Clean Hands’ investigation, and regardless of the color of the government in office. Among the latest scandals at a national level, one of the most serious in recent years has been represented by the so-called ‘Mafia capital’ system, a network of favoritism and corruption that involved people directly linked to the municipal administration of Rome and organized crime.