Posted March 7, 2007 12:02 am by with 11 comments

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France passed a law today banning nonprofessional journalists from recording or reporting on violent acts. The law is sure to come down hard on bloggers and other citizen journalists—and the webmasters that publish their stories.


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 penalty for recording or publishing acts of violence is up to five years in prison and 75,000 euros. Depending on the violent act, the penalty for recording or publishing could be heavier than for the act itself.

I can see the reasoning behind the law and I certainly don’t want the Internet to be the medium of choice for snuff films and other violent acts. But it’s still a disconcerting law.

Not as disconcerting as another proposal before the body:

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.

Oh, perfect. Will we start referring to France as “China: Europe”?

Via Techmeme

  • So, I guess they already have a law in place that defines exactly what is a “nonprofessional journalist”?

    Though, by reading the excerpt you posted, it might seem that the blogger is more of an accomplice to the violent act than merely reporting on it.

  • Jordan McCollum

    The tone article seemed to me to imply that they did have a definition of a professional journalist. This could be as simple as someone employed by a newspaper, news website or news television show.

    The law is supposed to apply not only to the ‘happy slapping’ context I cited above. Here’s the context surrounding the excerpt I used:
    “The law, proposed by Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy, is intended to clamp down on a wide range of public order offenses. . . .

    “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 [Pascal] Cohet, [spokesman for French online civil liberties group Odebi].”

    So even casual observers/recorders would be punishable under the law.

  • Does seem on the face of it like they’re going way too far. I hate any legal means of preventing people from competing against the established press.

  • Harry Mendes

    Do not move your eyeballs from this type of lawmaking, it is insidious, it is the kind that slowly but surely moves the very ground an individual is standing on, little by little, until one day we realize it is too late!!!! This must be fought with all available resources, make a commitment! The French government is just tired of the ongoing series of scandals, involving some high ranking officer doing all sorts of illegal activities and getting caught red handed! So, now, by throwing out things like “snuff” films, and such as a smokescreens, they are trying to disguise what they really want to do. Personally I am all for making it illegal to show things like snuff films on the internet, that is sick, but surely this can be done without killing the rights of an individual.

  • Pingback: Search Engine Feng Shui » En passant par la Chine…()

  • I guess these guys have not yet thought about evidence. Sensoring as high as this makes them lose potential evidence.

  • This is just pathetic on the side of the French. Sure enough here in America they are already known as pacifists but do they have to go this far I wonder? I am sure French bloggers will fight this to the end. Besides loopholes are a man’s best friend when it comes to what appears to be an oppressive government.

    Thank You

  • Robert

    A lot of people in the US are going to go nuts over this law not realizing the differences between French and US politics. China: Europe? I don’t think the French army has enough tanks to deal with all the protests that occur on a daily basis over there. It’s practically a national pastime.

    I wouldn’t worry. The French have a very strong concept of free speech, and the second anyone tries to use this law for anything other than its intended purpose, it’ll be struck down.

  • Harry Mendes

    First of all, to the arrogant “Feng Shui”, French is not considered a language “at large” so keep it to yourself, this is an english speaking site the last time I looked. However, this just proves my point, French are not happy with the fact that english is the language “at large” on the internet, so this frog’s attitude says it all. Do not leave it to French autohorities, they will dissappoint you. Guaranteed.

  • Jordan McCollum

    Harry, I appreciate your comments on this issue. I agree that this type of law is the beginning of a slippery slope.

    Search Engine Feng Shui left a trackback here from their blog post on their French language blog that mentioned this post. He wasn’t trying to comment on the post here in French.

    We get trackbacks like this is English, Spanish, French, Norwegian, Finnish, German, Italian and more. All are welcome and we’re glad that people are discussing the issues in many languages.

  • Hi Jordan,
    Thank you for your answer. I didn’t want to make any trouble on Marketing Pilgrim with this trackback. Search Engine Feng Shui is launching this week in France and will talk about Search marketing and SEO. We are a semi-dozen person working in a french marketing agency and wanted to share our knowledge and news about search marekting… and your news was ideal for a start about this business…