French Law Strikes A Blow Against Citizen Journalism

If you’re reporting in France, you’d better get yourself an official press pass. The French Constitutional Council has approved a law that makes it illegal to record acts of violence by anyone other than professional journalists, according to InfoWorld (via Yahoo News). Operators of websites that publish such images also could face prison or a fine of nearly $100,000, warned French online civil liberties group Odebi (the name is a play on the French word for broadband).
The council had reviewed the law as part of efforts to synthesize a series of ordinances designed to clamp down on a wide range of civil disorders. In particular, French lawmakers wanted to stop youths who record fights and other acts of violence and post the video to the web. Unfortunately, bloggers who record a protest that gets out of hand could be the ones singled out as criminals.
So, to remedy a law that was supposed to remedy other laws, the French government also has proposed a certification system for websites, bloggers, mobile-phone operators and Internet service providers, identifying them as government-approved sources of information if they abide by a series of rules. In turn, advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has cautioned that such a system could lead to excessive self-censorship as organizations worried about losing their certification suppress certain stories.