[extropy-chat] the non-transparent society
thespike at satx.rr.com
Wed Mar 7 06:42:49 UTC 2007
France Bans Citizen Journalists From Reporting Violence
PETER SAYER - IDG News Service
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.
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.
Senators and members of the National Assembly had
asked the council to rule on the
constitutionality of six articles of the Law
relating to the prevention of delinquency. The
articles dealt with information sharing by social
workers, and reduced sentences for minors. The
council recommended one minor change, to
reconcile conflicting amendments voted in
parliament. The law, proposed by Minister of the
Interior Nicolas Sarkozy, is intended to clamp
down on a wide range of public order offenses.
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.
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.
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