In short, the Ordine dei Giornalisti (ODG) is a corporation. A state-approved Order of Journalists that regulates Italy’s journalism by imposing membership on anyone who wants to work in the field as a professional. The Ordine as we know it today was created by law in 1963, but the idea of it is rooted in the 19th century, when the Associazione della Stampa Periodica Italiana (Association of Italian Periodical Press) was founded in 1877. Back then, the Association divided the profession into three categories: the so-called effettivi (full-time journalists), the pubblicisti (part-time journalists who were allowed to have other jobs as well), and the frequentatori (periodical contributors of the cultural and political world). Today’s divisions remain pretty much the same.
The actual forerunner of the ODG was instituted in 1928, during the fascist era. The Royal Decree 384 created the so-called Albo dei giornalisti, a register still existing today of all journalists in Italy. Again, the register was divided into three categories: the professionisti (journalists who had been working full-time for at least 18 months), the pubblicisti (paid journalists who had other jobs, too), and the praticanti (full-time journalists who hadn’t been working for at least 18 months or were not yet 21).
The 1928 organization is very similar to today’s ODG. The main difference was that back then, under Benito Mussolini’s regime, the Albo was directly controlled by the Fascist Union and the Minister of Justice. Therefore, it wasn’t independent, but politically controlled. As Paolo Murialdi states in his Storia del Giornalismo Italiano, in 1928, with the creation of the Albo, an additional removal of “disloyal” journalists took place. Hence, the register and the corporatist division of the category were used by Mussolini as additional means of controlling the press.
After the fall of the fascist regime in 1943, the Federazione della Stampa (Press Federation) could either abolish the existent organization, or accept it and apply minor changes. The latter is what the Federazione went for. In 1944, the Commissione Unica (Single Commission) was created – a provisional central self-governing body that was actually kept until 1963, when today’s Ordine dei Giornalisti was founded. Therefore, the law 69/1963, which still regulates Italy’s journalistic profession today, in 2011, derives directly from a fascist law created in 1928.
The 1963 law provides for the division of the Albo into two categories: the professionisti (full-time journalists) and the pubblicisti (paid part-time journalists who also have other jobs). In order to become full-time professionals, aspiring journalists must pass an oral and a written exam. The ODG sets a code of conduct for its adherents and has the power to censor, suspend and strike members off the Albo in case they have damaged the “professional dignity” of the organization. The Ordine also advises the Minister of Justice about possible laws concerning the regulation of the journalistic profession and sets the amount of money each member must pay to the corporation on a yearly basis.
A corporatist state-approved association like the ODG exists only in Italy. In the rest of the world, the journalistic profession is not regulated and limited by any organization. Journalists set up their own associations and unions, such as the National Union of Journalists (in the UK and Ireland) or the Canadian Association of Journalists. These organizations are self-regulated like the ODG but they are not under the supervision of the Minister of Justice, nor do they require mandatory membership in order for one to practice journalism.