Georgia Meloni, Italy's far-right prime minister, is suing Placebo singer Brian Molko for defamation after he called her a fascist and a racist during a gig in Turin. Prosecutors have "opened an investigation" into Molko, reports the BBC, and the lawsuit is apparently part of that action. There's a lot of speculation about whether its possible for her to pursue him beyond Italy's borders. Molko lives in London and Paris but can always avail himself of his U.S. citizenship if Britain or France's equivocal commitments to free expression become a problem for him.
Meloni has sued several critics in Italy, where defamation carries both civil and criminal penalities.
Ms Meloni is leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party and heads Italy's most right-wing government since World War Two. She has filed defamation lawsuits in the past. Last year, she initiated legal action for aggravated criminal defamation against the editors of Domani newspaper. Domani alleged Ms Meloni had tried to help an MP from her own party win a government contract to procure face masks during the Covid-19 pandemic. Ms Meloni rejected the allegation and sought damages of €25,000 (£21,500) from the paper. The trial is set to start in July 2024. She also filed a defamation lawsuit against Roberto Saviano, a journalist and the author of Gomorrah, for calling her a "bastard" during a TV interview in 2020 in which he denounced her for attacks on migrant rescue NGOs.
This kind of lurching from free-speech rhetoric to suing critics is a key feature of the modern far right, from dollar store Twitter reactionaries all the way up, but Italian fascists do so obsessively. To quote Ignazio La Russa, Meloni's predecessor as the head of her party: "We are all heirs of Il Duce."