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Rome: A city for love or limitations?

A recent bill in the Italian government provides a curious example surrounding freedom of expression in the country.

The history of Italy and freedom of expression is a long and complicated one. Going back to the times Julius Caesar and his conflict with the Roman senate, through to the Renaissance thinkers, ideas of human rights and political dialogue have always been present. Machiavelli's The Prince for example, explores the relationship between the ruling power and the kingdom of which he rules, explaining certain practices that are not characteristic of a proper democracy. At the same time, the Catholic Church has been instrumental in rejecting the ideas of some of the region's most important scientists like Galileo.

New legislation banning homophobia 
This is what makes the country's most recent legislation surrounding homophobia even more complex than the nation's history with freedom of speech. A recent bill in the country has been drafted in Italian parliament that would criminalize homophobic crimes. While on the surface this bill seems like it would be a step in the right direction for human rights in the country, there is a lot of criticism coming from multiple angles on the bill, according to Pink News, a European gay news publication.

The LGBT community in particular is not a fan of the bill because of the terminology used in the bill and the fact that it does not introduce any particularly new punishment for homophobic crimes. According to the news source, the only major victory seen by the LGBT community is the fact that it is being recognized by the government.

However, opponents of the new bill are also being critical because they believe that it limits the free expression of citizens. The conservative population of the country in particular sees it as a limiting of the freedom of opinion. This is not the first time legislation regarding LGBT rights and freedom of speech have gone hand in hand as Russia also recently passed legislation regarding the rights of the gay community, however, in the case of Russia, the legislation limited the rights of the LGBT community disseminate information and gather in pride parades.

Further complications
This news becomes even more complicated as the state of the media in the country is not particularly open either. The Index on Censorship explains that media landscape in the country suffers from a lack of plurality and a series of laws that allow for political actors to directly own media, with out any requirements saying the two need to be separate from one another.

The situation in Italy should force people to consider the intricacies of free expression as it seems as though political rhetoric and free speech have become intertwined, and raises a number of questions for which there are no easy answers. What is the intention of free speech, and how can it be used to defend personal liberties?

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