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Citizen journalism restricted in France

According to an article in today's InfoWorld, the French Constitutional Council has approved a law that criminalizes the recording or distribution of acts of violence by people other than professional journalists.

The controversial paragraph makes it an act of complicity to record or distribute images of violence, and then goes on to say:

“The present article do not apply when the recording or distribution results from the normal exercise of a profession devoted to inform the public or is carried out in order to be used as proof in justice”

Original: « Le présent article n'est pas applicable lorsque l'enregistrement ou la diffusion résulte de l'exercice normal d'une profession ayant pour objet d'informer le public ou est réalisé afin de servir de preuve en justice. »

The law, proposed by Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy, is named Projet de loi relatif à la prévention de la délinquance (Law relating to the prevention of delinquency) and is addressing a wide range of public order offenses. The ban of filming is supposed to clamp down on the practice known as “happy slapping”, where somebody is beaten up, and the attack is filmed and put on the Internet for amusement and to insult the victim. However, the law is broad enough to also make it possible to use the low to prosecute citizen journalists reporting on, say, police brutality.

Apart from the mind-boggling aspect of limiting the right of expression based upon the profession of the expresser, this French law is the first example I've seen (outside obvious dictatorships) of legislation that attempts to close the Internet “hole” that gives ordinary citizens the same access to an audience as used to be the privilege of the governement and the few moguls that own traditional mass media.

I hope this is just a fluke, but I will not be surprised if other governments follow suit and tries to regulate the right of expression afforded by bloggers and citizen journalists. Singapore already has a sophisticated system where, among other things, you need a government license to blog. The day when such measures are implemented in the west may not be far away.

2 responses:

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Depictation of violence is illegal in Norway too, so with the proposed Internet content filtering scheme, this kind of content is likely to be filtered. Content produced by professional journalists is less likely to be filtered, since “free speech” is more important in those cases.

So I'm afraid if the proposed content filtering scheme goes through in Norway (which I don't think it will), the result will be the same here.

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…the practice known as “happy slapping”, where somebody is beaten up, and the attack is filmed and put on the Internet for amusement and to insult the victim… Who's to judge? Big media on the net are begging for this kind of videos. Why is another matter. Most often they pick them elswhere on the net. We are talking fourth and fifth “estate” here. And no matter why and where and by whom the publishing takes place it keeps some real powers of the state at bay. “Free speech” will have to be “same size” for all – in the legal sense at least.

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