Or at least evidence of a functioning system as opposed to pure authoritarianism. The reason is this: Italy and the U.S. are different in that while we have lots of free speech here, most of that speech doesn't translate out into actual change in either policy, government, or society, while in Italy it really does. The sad fact of American life is that we can have an entire parallel system of news production and gathering devoted to opposing war or opposing a President, Bush in this case, yet have the system ignore us. In Italy, as in other European countries, speech actually has the ability to effect reality much easier than here, in the form of legislation, of government officials being pressured to change their policies, in open revolts by people at large, by the toppling of governments. Which is why they take statements that appear to have little basis, like that Amanda Knox was abused by police, pretty seriously. Sure, sue them for libel.
We have the opposite situation in the U.S.: police misconduct rises, people get upset about it and protest, launch campaigns based on egregious incidents, and yet the powers that be just ignore it, or if not give it a cursory nod before getting back to business. In cases like that of the U.S., one has to ask themselves, or at least I have to ask myself, if free speech alone really matters as much as people say it does?
One of the reasons that government responds to people in negative ways is that they feel scared or threatened. Based on the amount of government response in the United States, taken in combination with the actual state of policy here, it's a fair call to say that our speech isn't taken as being a sort of utopian gift but is instead looked at as an annoyance that doesn't really change much.
In a way, Italy's act, which is the act of a democracy and not of a dictatorship, is a backhanded complement to Amanda Knox's parents, with an emphasis on the backhand.