10 March 2007

France: ‘Non’ to Violent Citizen Journalism Video

The French Constitutional Council has passed a law that forbids citizen journalists from filming violent incidents and uploading them to the Internet, with penalties for offenders of up to five years in prison and fines of 75,000 euros.

Under the law, only ‘professional journalists’ will be able to videotape and broadcast acts of violence. A professional journalist is defined as someone whose ‘normal exercise of a profession (is) to inform the public.’

The law has been presented as a solution to ‘happy slapping,’ or physically attacking someone to generate a reaction and take a video, and is part of a cluster of new provisions aimed at curbing delinquency. However, its broad wording concerns come civil liberties groups. The law, proposed by interior minister and French presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, potentially could lead to the imprisonment of eyewitnesses who film acts of police violence, critics say.

The French government also has proposed a certification system for Web sites, blog hosting services, mobile phone operators and Internet service providers. Under the proposal, they would be identified as government-approved information sources if they adhere to certain rules. Reporters Without Borders, an organization that campaigns for a free press, warns that such a system could lead to self-censorship by organizations worried about losing certification.

More information is available InfoWorld.com

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