To open the cabinets is not enough...

It may seem a triviality, but without open access to information democracy cannot be exercised fully. And most information cannot be produced without research; in particular, historical research and the knowledge it produces are essential elements for the creation and maintenance of a civil society and for the education of active and sentient citizens.

On December 12th, 1969 at 16:37 a bomb exploded at the Banca Nazionale dell'Agricoltura of Piazza Fontana in Milan, Italy killing 17 people. In the following hour three other bombs exploded in Rome, luckily without victims, and a further one was found at another bank in Milan. This date has been interpreted as the beginning of the "strategy of tension" in Italy. It is thus a crucial date in the explanation of Italian history and present. Nonetheless, we still lack a consistent and shared narrative of these events, as of the many other dark moments in Italian contemporary history.
 To write this history however we need the documents, and to obtain the documents we need the possibility to access the archives. Secret of State in Italy is limited, since 2007, to 30 years, but if many archival cabinets have been formally opened, that does not mean that it is easy or straightforward to access them and see the documents. Often red tape and informal "secret of State" prevent that thorough research may be performed. </p>

New forms of archival management and clear codes of conduct have thus to be implemented, that may help both researchers and citizens to freely access documents and to reconstruct and disclose the history of the dark heart of Italy (any reference to a certain bookis not unintentional). 

And just to ask this a manifesto has been issued by Italian researchers, associations, activists and citizens that appeals for the accessibility and transparency of archives in the interest of the citizenship. As the appeal states "only a State that is not afraid of truth and of the confrontation about the errors of its past is a really democratic State, where all may recognize themselves fully." 

Four are the areas of intervention the public appeal asks to focus on as to improve archival accesibility and transparency and on which it looks for public support:

  1. Secret of State. Complete fulfilment of the law of 2007 limiting the secret of State to 30 years in view of a normalization and improvement of access rights to the historical archives of Italian security agencies. A possible source of inspiration could be the American Freedom of Information Act;
  2. Parliamentary commissions of inquiry. Total accessibility for everybody to the documentation gathered  by the parliamentary commissions of inquiry and timely publication of their proceedings;
  3. Judicial acts of socio-historical relevance. Implementation of all the technical and adminisstrative systems that may help in the conservation and consultation of judicial acts of particular social relevance, e.g. the digitization of documents;
  4. State Archives. Ensure that all documents dismissed by the running archives are timely deposited in the historical archives (as foreseen by the Italian Code of Cultural Goods). Moreover, grant historical archives, which rank among the most underrated institutions in Italy, the funding, personnel and physical space needed to preserve the historical memory of the Italian Republic.



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