France bans filming of violence

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Amateur photograph from the French 2005 riots

On Saturday, the French Constitutional Council announced its approval for a proposed law that would make it illegal for anybody other than professional journalists to videotape acts of violence.

The law is, as the Associated Press dubs it, a "clumsy effort" to curb the urban youth activity known as happy slapping in which an act of violence, such as kicking a helpless victim, is filmed by the attacker's friends for entertainment purposes.

The new law was tucked inside a much larger anti-crime bill put before the Council, and has been chastised for being "deliberately" vague and allowing the prosecution of non-guilty parties who simply videotape events of police brutality, urban riots or other violence. Under the new legislation, written by Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy, convicted "citizen journalists" could face up to five years in prison.

Media freedom group Reporters Without Borders has called the act "dangerous", and warned that it can be used to target "regular citizens" who film acts of violence. The group has also attacked proposed French legislation that would designate certain media outlets as "government-approved sources of information", citing the dangers of censorship.