Italy’s parliament has proposed legislation banning fascist propaganda, following a rise in right-wing and anti-immigrant sentiment in the country.
The lower house on Tuesday approved the draft bill proposed by the ruling Democratic Party, which would outlaw the Nazi salute and the distribution of fascist or Nazi party imagery, the Reuters news agency reported.
Previously such propaganda was only forbidden if it was deemed to be an attempt to revive the National Fascist Party, which was headed by wartime dictator Benito Mussolini and dissolved in 1943.
Opposition parties voiced concern that the new bill would curtail free speech.
Emanuele Fiano, who drew up the legislation, rejected such claims.
“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.
The punishment for selling, for example, a small statue with the image of Mussolini, known as Il Duce (“The Leader”) could include a maximum jail sentence of two years.
The bill will head to the Senate, but due to its busy schedule it is unlikely the upper house will vote on it before the end of the current session.
Mussolini led Italy from 1922 until his execution in 1945. From 1925 he ran the country as a dictatorship and aligned with Hitler’s Germany during World War II.
To some in Italy Mussolini remains a hero, and there are memorials to him all over the country.