Mar 7, 2007

France Bans Citizens From Filming Violence

Macworld is reporting that the French Constitutional Council approved legislation that criminalizes the filming, broadcasting, or hosting of acts of violence by persons other than professional journalists. The law ostensibly was designed to curb the practice of happy slapping, in which a staged attack is filmed by an accomplice, typically to be posted on a site such as YouTube.

The broadly-written law, however, could lead to the jailing of eyewitnesses who film acts of police violence or rioting, as well as operators of Web sites that publish such footage. Under the law, anyone publishing such images could face up to five years in prison and a fine of €75,000 (US$98,537).

The French government is also considering a certification system for blog hosts, mobile-phone operators, ISPs, and even individual websites, which would identify them as "government-approved sources of information." The journalists’ organization Reporters Without Borders argues that this could lead to "excessive self censorship," given the fact that site owners and hosts might suppress some types of news for fear of losing their certifications.

I trust that enough media attention will be brought to this poorly-written law to get it modified. While I find "happy slapping" to be a repugnant form of bullying - especially when the victim is unaware of the plot - the French law will only serve to chill freedom of the press. Happy slapping filmmakers will simply host their work on a non-French site, and unwitting dupes will still get slapped around as long as there is an audience for this idiocy.

Perhaps the surest form of justice might be found in this Happy Slap Gone Wrong video, in which the boyfriend of a happy slap victim kicks the arses of the would-be happy slappers.


microdot said...

I learned of this only a few hours ago. That's why the UMP has got to be defeated in the presidential election next month! Chirac is sleepwalking and on remote and the Senate is passing bills with amendments tagged on them shepherded by the Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozi, who is trying to assume power with out being elected.
His book, Testament, which outlines his philosophy was published in Italy in February with the forward written by Gianfranco Fini, the leader of the Italian Fascist Party...
I know there will be outrage over this in the next few days. The UMP is protecting the police after the police who chased 2 kids to their death in a railroad transformer enclosure were convicted last month. That was the incident which triggered the violence in the banlieus last year. The kids were coming home from basketball practice and the cops who under the get tough
PR initiative by Sarkozi challenged them to show their papers, which they didn't have with them. It was proven in court that they chased the kids into the transformer enclosure on maliciously.

MP said...

It strikes me, as is usual with such "fads," that leaving the problem alone would probably make it go away faster than trying to do something with it.

The law is overbroad, and hopefully it will not last. Nice try though, France.

The Screaming Nutcase said...

Someone else pointed out that this law comes literally days after the 16th anniversary of the Rodney King beating and its famous videotape.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Happy slapping?

Is that what makes for news in France today?

Leave it alone and it will a quick death. Make it illegal and you give it a life of its own.