By Alberta Giorgi
In our fieldwork research, we stumbled upon many groups providing an extremely useful service to the communities they are in – that is, collecting and disseminating information about laws, regulations, jurisprudence and – more broadly – what occurs in the legal and judicial fields in relation to the topics and issues they focus on. Therefore, there are many websites, forums, Facebook pages and newsletters informing those who are interested about new developments in laws and caseload, at the national, local, and international level, and the European courts. This post will offer an overview of the Italian fieldwork.
Sources can be systematized into four categories. First of all, there are the more comprehensive resources, which aggregate and organize all the possible legal and judicial sources, such as Diritto e Giustizia news (Right and Justice News), Diritto&Diritti, and INFOleges (a searchable database of laws and jurisprudence). Usually, these are resources provided by the State apparatuses, often in collaboration with universities, and/or by experts for experts – in order to keep track of all the developments in the field. Besides general resources, some websites cover more specific areas, such as the website of the Italian Data Protection Authority (Garante per la protezione dei dati personali), an independent authority set up to protect fundamental rights and freedoms in connection with the processing of personal data, and to ensure respect for individuals’ dignity. In addition to official “expert-to-expert” resources, an interesting role is played by news agencies – the economic daily newspaper Il Sole 24 ore, for example, has organized a website, Diritto24, reporting and commenting on news about laws and jurisprudence – it also offers to subscribers a weekly magazine that reviews ‘laws and jurisprudence’, including analyses of lawyers’ strategies.
The second category includes thematic resources, usually set up by scholars, on a range of different topics. In relation to the areas of interest to our project, for example, we can include websites such as OLIR – Osservatorio delle libertà ed istituzioni religiose (Observatory of religious freedoms and institutions), which collects and organizes all the legal and judicial information on religion in Italy, with specific dossiers on various topics, such as ‘ritual slaughtering’ or ‘Islam’. It also includes news, articles and comments, and a small bibliography. The website aims to engage with an audience broader than the legal experts – and indeed, it has proved extremely useful to us, especially because it systematizes the information (laws, regulations, and jurisprudence) and translates the legal jargon. Actually, this ‘expert-to-non-expert’ kind of resource is of paramount importance to have an orientation into the wild wide field of laws and rights – and I’m saying that from a non-legal-expert position. That’s why I find extremely interesting small experiments such as ‘FronteVerso’, even though it’s a non-thematic resource. FronteVerso tackles specifically the issue of the complexity of the expert language, and it issues a periodical newsletter in two columns, in which judicial rulings are reported in their original version on the right (verso) and translated in ordinary language on the left (fronte). The website claim is ‘knowing the right is a right’ – and the underlying idea is to provide a tool for improving the knowledge and awareness of ordinary citizens. In this sense, as the organizers state in their “about” section, it is an attempt to “nourish democracy”, undermining the experts’ privilege. The newsletter does not cover specific themes or topics, but it deals with high-profile cases or, more broadly, with sentences likely to impact on ordinary citizens’ lives.