ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s lower house of parliament approved on Tuesday a bill aimed at curbing fascist propaganda, more than 70 years after the death of wartime dictator Benito Mussolini.
Under existing laws, pro-fascist propaganda is only penalized if it is seen to be part of an effort to revive the old Fascist Party. The new bill raises the stakes by outlawing the stiff-armed Roman salute as well as the distribution of fascist or Nazi party imagery and gadgets.
Offenders risk up to two years in jail, with sentences raised by a further eight months if the fascist imagery is distributed over the Internet.
Opposition parties said the bill posed a threat to freedom of speech.
But Emanuele Fiano, a lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Party who drew up the legislation, dismissed such concerns.
“This bill does not attack personal freedoms but will act as a brake on neo-fascist regurgitation and a return of extreme right-wing ideology,” he said.
Mussolini is still admired by a hard core of supporters on the far-right and posters using fascist imagery regularly appear on city billboards — most recently in a stylized picture of a white woman being assaulted by a muscular black man.
More than 600,000 migrants, mainly Africans, have come to Italy over the past four years, boosting anti-immigration sentiment in the country and pushing up support for rightist and far-right parties that demand rigid border controls.