Parliamentary question by Marco Cappato (NI) to the Commission and answer given by Mr Vitorino on behalf of the Commission

Parliamentary questions

by Marco Cappato (NI) to the Commission
(22 July 2002)

Subject: Freedom of expression and the Internet

Following the publication on 25 October 2000 of a report in the "Osservatore Romano" - the daily newspaper of the Roman Curia - of an article on "blasphemous" websites, the Italian financial police, after about two years' investigations, has ordered the shutdown of five US-based Internet sites.

Does not the Commission consider that these provisions are contrary to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the international instruments concerning human rights, in particular Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty on European Union and the Charter of Fundamental Rights? If so, what steps does it intend to take?

Answer given by Mr Vitorino
on behalf of the Commission
(3 September 2002)

Freedom of expression is recognised in particular by Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Rights and by Article 11 of the Union Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, to which the Honourable Member refers.

However, exercise of that freedom may, in accordance with the two aforementioned instruments, be restricted provided that certain conditions are met.

Any restrictions must be laid down by law and must constitute measures necessary in a democratic society to protect legitimate public interests.

Assessment as to whether those conditions are met must be carried out on a case-by-case basis.

As for the Internet sites mentioned, the Honourable Member does not provide sufficient details for an assessment to be carried out.

The Commission is monitoring closely developments regarding Internet communications and will, should the need arise, take any appropriate measures under the powers vested in it.