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Civil liberties threatened in France
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Imagine trying to pass a law in the US which would outlaw this:
The French Constitutional Council has approved a law that criminalizes the filming or broadcasting of acts of violence by people other than professional journalists. The law could lead to the imprisonment of eyewitnesses who film acts of police violence, or operators of Web sites publishing the images, one French civil liberties group warned on Tuesday.
A cynical person might dub that the "Professional Journalist Job Security Act". Consider this:
The council chose an unfortunate anniversary to publish its decision approving the law, which came exactly 16 years after Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King were filmed by amateur videographer George Holliday on the night of March 3, 1991. The officers’ acquittal at the end on April 29, 1992 sparked riots in Los Angeles.

If Holliday were to film a similar scene of violence in France today, he could end up in prison as a result of the new law, said Pascal Cohet, a spokesman for French online civil liberties group Odebi. And anyone publishing such images could face up to five years in prison and a fine of â?¬75,000 (US$98,537), potentially a harsher sentence than that for committing the violent act.
And that's not all being considered. French bloggers beware:
The broad drafting of the law so as to criminalize the activities of citizen journalists unrelated to the perpetrators of violent acts is no accident, but rather a deliberate decision by the authorities, said Cohet. He is concerned that the law, and others still being debated, will lead to the creation of a parallel judicial system controlling the publication of information on the Internet.

The government has also proposed a certification system for Web sites, blog hosters, mobile-phone operators and Internet service providers, identifying them as government-approved sources of information if they adhere to certain rules. The journalists’ organization Reporters Without Borders, which campaigns for a free press, has warned that such a system could lead to excessive self censorship as organizations worried about losing their certification suppress certain stories.
You don't say? Let freedom ring.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

What do you expect from the French. They are only good at losing wars and insulting visitors. Fortunately our Founding fathers had the foresight to adopt freedom of the press in the first amendment to the Constitution.
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
During parliamentary debate of the law, government representatives said the offense of filming or distributing films of acts of violence targets the practice of “happy slapping,” in which a violent attack is filmed by an accomplice, typically with a camera phone, for the amusement of the attacker’s friends.
Instaed of banning the filming, they’d make much more progress by offering a reward for films of "unhappy ass-whipping," in which the violent beatings of perpetrators of "happy slapping" are filmed immediately after their offense. Bonus bucks awarded if the happy slapper’s camera phone has to be extracted from one of his own orifices to recovers the file.
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
Is this what we should embrace in a "multi-lateral" view of the world ?
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
Where’s Dr Erb telling us what a great thing this is, I mean, afer all, this country(France) is part of the standard used when making judgements about the United States.
Written By: looker
URL: http://
In somewhat related news,
Access to the popular video-sharing website YouTube has been suspended in Turkey following a court order.

The ban was imposed after prosecutors told the court that clips insulting former Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had appeared on the site.

According to Turkish media, there has been a "virtual war" between Greek and Turkish users of the site, with both sides posting insulting videos.
For all the complaining I may do about our politicians and whatever else, I’m pretty darn glad I live in this country.
Written By: Faisca
My favorite part of the article is in the very first sentence.

Who’s behind this heavy handed squelching of free speech?
The French Constitutional Council

Now that’s funny.
In an "I’m pretty happy I don’t live there" sort of way.
Written By: Veeshir
URL: http://
It seems rather crass to condemn, "the French," whole cloth for this. There has been, as noted, resistance and outcry from civil liberties groups and that it was referred to the constitutional council suggests that some members of the parliament (I think that the constitutional stipulates that either sixty assemblymen or sixty senators are needed for a referral, the article is unclear on that) were hoping that it would be ruled unconstitutional. Of course, it may have been Sarkozy’s supporters making sure that they wouldn’t be rudely surprised by a constitutional challenge later.

It’s a ridiculous law and stupidly impinges upon liberties to attack a practice that could be been acted against in better ways. I wouldn’t be surprised if the bill’s intentions are really more sinister than professed.

It is depressing for the French people as well given that Nikolas Sarkozy will be a major presidential candidate and that the other real alternative is Marie-Ségolène Royal, whom I will admit some admiration for on the grounds of her support for devolution, but cannot generally think well of for her rather arch socialism. It’s not really my concern, of course, our own dismal contest in the United States offers enough to grumble over.

One would only hope that the bill is either amended or fails at some point on the path to enactment, but I wouldn’t place a bet on either, but then again, I don’t gamble.
Written By: Paludicola

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