France Bans Citizen Journalists From Recording Violence: Because If It's Not Recorded We Can Pretend It Never Happened

from the cause-and-effect dept

Yikes. We thought it was pretty bad when some schools thought the way to stop bullying was to ban YouTube or ban cameraphones on the belief that without a record, perhaps the bullying wouldn’t happen (but more likely because without a record, school administrators could pretend it didn’t happen). However, the French Constitutional Council has taken this concept to an entirely new level, approving a law that says that only professional journalists can film or broadcast acts of violence. If you happen to be walking along the street and see a violent act and film it with your cameraphone, you may face time in jail. The article notes the sad irony that this decision came out on the anniversary of the Rodney King incident. Under this law, if Rodney King had been attacked today, the guy filming the video would now be facing jail time. It’s as if they believe that by banning the recording of these incidents then the incidents themselves go away. It’s head-in-the-sand governing, and it seems ridiculous that anyone would think this is a good idea. Update: A French journalist stopped by in the comments to suggest that the Infoworld article we linked to got the story wrong. The law is focused on stopping the filming and broadcast of such content for the purpose of “fun” and includes an exemption for filming it for proof that something is happening or in the course of trying to inform. Thus, it’s not nearly as bad. However, it still seems silly to prevent such things, when all they really do is help identify those who are acting violently, making it easier for authorities to track them down.

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Comments on “France Bans Citizen Journalists From Recording Violence: Because If It's Not Recorded We Can Pretend It Never Happened”

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Sanguine Dream says:

Lost evidence

Why? Why ban a potential source of credible evidence? If I get mugged and someone that is too scared to help but is able to record it then call all means do it. If I can’t get help I’ll take a witness.

So that also means that if I record some of my friends beating up a guy and posting it on YouTube I can get in trouble for recording as well as the actual beating? I assume the cops would just say, “If he is dumb enough to record it and make our work easier then let him.”

Reed says:

Re: Suppression of Media

It isn’t the governments that control media it is private corporations. That is essentially our system here in the states so don’t go all “those guys” on us.

We are just as bad with our media, one only has to flip through the 20 or so modern news channels to quickly discover everyone is mysteriously on the same page. It is not an accident! Independent impartial news doesn’t exist in the US and I am sure you could argue that it never did to begin with.

Our country was founded on propaganda therefore you cannot go around pointing your finger at other countries when we are the ones who perfected it.

BTW The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is a great documentary and I highly recommend it to anyone who doesn’t understand where Chavez is coming from.

Casper says:

Re: Re: Actually that depends on your definition of plenty

Which wars are you counting and what do you consider plenty? If you’re going for a win vs loss record they could really use some improvement. It also depends on what constitutes a win, are talking about a war where they play a deciding factor, or where their allies win it?

I’m not saying they have not won any wars, but your statement has me a bit confused..

Java says:

I understand the intent, but they are clearly reacting in a futile manner.

This will not stop people from staging violent acts and recording them…They need to focus on the real causes of these issues.

As has been pointed out by others, anyone with a video camera can help solve crimes by catching things on video and this should be recognized and rewarded, not punished.

Cases of staged violent acts are horrible and those should be stopped, but a general sweeping law is not the answer.

death says:

Rodney King?

Rodney King has proven himself to be a worthless citizen after repeated arrests since then. We also did not see that incident from beginning to end. That incident was worthy of the riots that ensued and the robbing, looting and pillaging?
Reginald Denny would be a better example…an innocent trucker pulled from his rig during those riots and savagely beaten…
Too bad the National Guard supposedly had no ammunition…martial law would have made good tv…

Willam says:

Re: Re: sounds familiar

It just sounds like the sort of thing they would do is all. Instead of facing a problem deny it exists and try to cover it up. And never take the blame this is no doubt an attempt to improve tourism if France by covering up the ails that the country faces instead of solving them. They will probably give the idiot that came up with this idea a medal classic Bush strategy. QED

Koz says:


If you read the article these rules aren’t law yet, it’s only proposals and the bad consequence is only someone’s opinion about a possibility and only if you choose to believe the original rumor withour checking…..

Perhaps Techdirt doesn’t check anything anymore, or perhaps it’s just that Americans will believe anything !

Joe Schmo says:

First the World Cup..

France wonders why everyone else hates her. Doesn’t realize it’s possibly for the stupid decision she makes and the unshaven armpits of her daughters. This however, is by far one of the more unconventional laws I’ve ever heard of and takes the cake in stupidity. It’s shameful, thinking a passerby may see a rape in dark alley and turns a blind eye. Is France saying the only person to save the victims of crime is Peter Parker? Although I do applaud Spiderman, I do not however applaud the French government in it’s decision to ignore he cry of the helpless. Good luck Peter Parker! Although I don’t think you’ll be visiting France anytime soon, you might be facing jail-time.

CoJeff says:

From the article


“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 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…”

So perhaps its you who should read the article. From what I read there it says the law passed.

dorpass says:

Re: Viva la France

Mark, you better not be an American, where a bumload of politicians are talking about banning everything from iPods to YouTube and coming up with stickers claiming that “Evolution is not a fact, but a theory” which of course is very necessary for something called Theory of Evolution. Grow up, point fingers once you figured out how to deal with nitwit politicians in your own home.

cheez says:

Doesn't this make security cameras illegal?

That’s my main question; If a company with security cameras installed, for example, a bank branch, has an act of violence occur within the view of their camera installation, does that constitute an illegal videographing? Would this also preclude the police/courtsfrom using this footage, as it was created in an illegal fashion?

All of a sudden I see the usefulness of surveillance cameras for anything other than theft prevention going right out the window…. at least for the French. Hope ya’ll enjoy being mugged in your parking garages!

love and peace

JuicyPickle says:

Re: Doesn't this make security cameras illegal?

Ok, No

I think you have this all wrong… How do you consider a security camera a journalist? A passerby is also not a journalist, so that mugging on tape is admissible evidence and not illegal. All the government is trying to do is alow for easier cover ups of … well crap in the country.

Lets take a riot of example… If a journalist (professional) wants to publish the tape it may be subject to censor via the government. Where as a journalist (non-profesional) can post it to Youtube and all hell would break lose..

Keep it Juicy!

I can still read. says:

let's see

Ok boys and girls..
I can still read.. and yes that goes for french too.

First of all.. it’s not a new law.. it’s an amended one.
Second.. it’s filming and publishing while being an accomplice. (not sure how this applies to Rodney’s home movie..)

basically.. it means that if you do film something bad.. go see the the media and sell them the movie.

oh yeah.. and it’s fouteur de trouble .. and as pointers.. on-line translators suck.. don’t use them

Nasty Old Geezer says:

Maybe not a bad idea

This could give the French an alternative means of prosecuting terrorists and gangs. Some of these scum like to video their violent acts and put them on the Internet — maybe to brag, maybe to further intimidate. If the French think it is easier to prove the filming and posting, they can get the scum in jail for something.

Other than that, is a completely stupid law.

Reed says:

Re: founded on propaganda . . .??

So Reed thinks, “Our country was founded on propaganda . . .”

Oh really? Like what

Well for one we could examine the Sons of Liberty a propaganda organization founded by the rich affluent property owners of the time in the colony.

They spun stories like the Boston massacre to enrage and incite otherwise perfectly happy English citizens. Taxation without representation was also a bunch of bull crap as the taxes that were actually payed were inconsequential.

Yes our Revolution was sponsored by Rich land owners who wanted to increase their power and influence. One of the major points of this was that land ownership decreased while the gap between the poor and rich increased dramatically after the revolution.

Did you ever wonder why they removed “in pursuit of property?” Well the land owners of America didn’t want to share!

Our country lives and breathes propaganda. One only has to look at examples like 9/11 to see there is no critical discourse in the media or government. The Pancake theory is pretty hard to believe especially when you consider a third building collapsed (WT7) the same way when it was only struck by a little debris. Its kinda like flipping a quarter a million times and getting heads everytime, sure it could happen, but highly unlikely.

pvdg (user link) says:

Wait a minute!

I am a french journalist and everything I know on this topic contradict the story up there.

Here is the agenda of our Conseil constitutionnel (aka Supreme Court):

I find nothing related to this topic. Looks like they didn’t examine this law yet.

To my knowledge, the law in question is an attempt to stop an ugly phenomenon: “happy slapping”:

Not a good idea?

But of course, they had to differenciate the filming of a violent act “for the fun” and “in order to get a proof”. Not easy…

So they included a sentence saying this law will not apply…

« lorsque l’enregistrement ou la diffusion résulte de l’exercice normal d’une profession ayant pour objet d’informer le public ou est réalisé afin de servir de preuve en justice »

that is: “when the recording or the diffusion results from the normal exercise of a profession devoted to inform the public or is carried out in order to be used as proof in justice”

Sounds bad? This is all I know for now.

Disclosure: I am not at all a partisan of this government.

BTW1: No problem with violence in USA? How lucky!
BTW2: These famous “riots” in France only existed in the US media. We use a different word, since there not a single casualty.
BTW3: We, too, have bad politicians. And some bad laws. But not yet a Patriot Act.
BTW4: I love your country (I lived in SF a couple of years) and your people. How do you explain so much hate against France? After all, we gave you Miss Liberty. And we were right about Irak 😉
BTW5: Didn’t know armpit shaving was a universal sign or proof of democracy. Is this in your constitution?
BTW6: Most women shave their armpits, in France. But we have no law about it.

tim stevens (profile) says:

Re: Wait a minute!

Are you saying that the US media has….lied? Say it ain’t so!

The US media has a simple agenda:

[1] Bush/Conservatism/Capitalism/Entrepreneurism is bad so provide evidence.
[2] Liberalism/Socialism/Environmentalism/protected-group-ism etc is good so provide evidence
[3] Evidence contrary to [1] and [2] is either ignored or misreported
[4] Randomly report some non-US event either accurately or inaccurately depending upon some unknown algorithm to provide balance.
[5] Never admit that journalists are experts in nothing and pretend they are knowledgeable in all things upon which they report.

BTW Segolene Royal is hot and Hillary Clinton is definitely not.
But, I’d rather have an ugly socialist scank as leader than a hot one as I can hate a scank easier than I can hate a hottie.

Christophe says:

Re: Wait a minute!

As a Frenchman, I completely agree with this comment.

This whole debate is completely saturated with false ideas about France and French law.

This law only targets ‘filming for morally bad reasons’, ie. Happy Slapping, which has been spreading in schools. My son is 8, I know that he’s going to face that kind of behavior sooner or later…

Seems a good law from my perspective, and I’m happy to live in a free and responsible country !

Reading other comments, I tend to think that the vision of France from outside (especially from the US) is biased by caricatural comments and ideas conveyed by mass-media… Why is that ???

pvdg (user link) says:

Faking the fake

Wikipedia got it right:

This has been a pur french-US story. Nobody in Israel never claimed that the TV segment could be faked. You know, there is a war in this country, and sometimes bullets kill people. Most of the time, Palestinians. The french TV never said that the kid had been killed “on purpose”.

From Wikipedia:
On October 19, 2006, a court in Paris ruled that Philippe Karsenty, who runs the Media-Ratings Agency, was guilty of libeling France 2 and Charles Enderlin after alleging that they had faked their report. [28] [29] The public prosecutor had recommended that the court rule in Karsenty’s favor, but the judges argued that Karsenty’s allegations could not be regarded as credible because “no Israeli authority … have ever accorded the slightest credit” to them. [30] According to The Jerusalem Post, Israeli officials have explained their silence by saying it was a “losing proposition” to reopen the al-Durrah case, because they would be “accused of blaming the victim.” [30] Karsenty was fined €1,000; €3,000 in legal fees; and a symbolic €1 in damages to both Enderlin and France 2. [31]

pvdg (user link) says:

The law is published

This morning, the law discussed here has been published in our “Journal officiel”:

In fact it’s a big package, in which you find a little thing modifying an existing law about different kinds of violence (including rape, torture…). Here it is:

« Art. 222-33-3. – Est constitutif d’un acte de complicité des atteintes volontaires à l’intégrité de la personne prévues par les articles 222-1 à 222-14-1 et 222-23 à 222-31 et est puni des peines prévues par ces articles le fait d’enregistrer sciemment, par quelque moyen que ce soit, sur tout support que ce soit, des images relatives à la commission de ces infractions.

« Le fait de diffuser l’enregistrement de telles images est puni de cinq ans d’emprisonnement et de 75 000 EUR d’amende.

« Le présent article n’est pas applicable lorsque l’enregistrement ou la diffusion résulte de l’exercice normal d’une profession ayant pour objet d’informer le public ou est réalisé afin de servir de preuve en justice. »

It says:

1/ that whoever knowingly records images of a violence is an accomplice and will be punished as such.

2/ that whoever broadcast this record will be punished (5 years, 75,000 €)

3/ as I said earlier, this law does not apply when the recording or the diffusion results from the normal exercise of a profession devoted to inform the public or is carried out in order to be used as proof in justice.

So, may be this law could have been better conceived. It is evident hat the basic aidea is to tell the bad guys: “if you are going to rape a poor girl in order to take picturees or a video and show them to other bad guys, the rapists and their accomplices, INCLUDING the photographer could go to jail. He will say: “I didn’t touch her” and the judge will anwer: “but you took pictures”.

Whoever, passing by, takes pictures “in order to be used as proof in justice” will be considered as a responsible citizen.

Whoever, passing by, takes pictures in “the normal exercise of a profession devoted to inform the public”, will be considered as a journalist.

Oh, and what about the netizen who takes pictures of a rape and put them on YouTube? I don’t see that there is a “right” to broadcast that kind of humiliating images of people.

Oh, and what about Rodney King? I thought, BTW, that this happened in LA. And alerting the public about violence perpetrated by cops is definitely another story. And our law says exactly that recording and publishing is OK when it is “in order to be used as proof in justice”. Which is what happened in this case. AND: how could George Holliday, who filmed the scene, be considered an “acomplice” of the perpetrators of the violence?

About the “Conseil constitutionnel”: what I understand now is that our “supreme court” in fact examined the whole package on March 3, but whas never asked to look at this particular part of it. And this juridiction is not supposed to decide by iitself to examine every bit of the law.

One last word: we have a lot of political parties and organisations of all sizes. I didn’t heard a word about this law from any of them. The exception is Odebi, a small group defending “Internet et Libertés / Presse Libre d’Origine Non Kontrolée” (“Free press from uncontroled origin”), which answered a couple of US journalists. In my opinion, they fooled these journalists by not telling them about the other provision of the law about filming “in order to be used as proof in justice” and abusively using the exemple of Rodney King. To my knowledge, George Holliday was not an amateur journalist who filmes the scene to make a good post on his blog or upload it to YouTube. He was acting as a full fledged citizen who is in position to record a proof of a crime and does it. They don’t say what other idea they have to curb the “happy slapping” epidemy.

tato says:

so there are exclusions for journalists and if the intent of the video footage is to establish evidence to ensure justice…

Back to the Rodney King example, though, so let’s presume that it is the French police that commit the crime. Don’t you think that the French govt. will have a vested interest in determining that such footage is NOT evidence of a crime, and will thus now have a legal remedy to lock up the trouble making good samaritan that filmed the misdeeds of French officials?

Ike (profile) says:

French journalists don't see the big picture

I don’t care whether you think the so-called “Happy-Slapping-Video” law is a good idea or not. It is bad policy.

In the United States, someone videotaping an assault like that would be considered a conspirator and an accomplice, and would face the same penalty as the people actually attacking the victim. So there is no need to go after the cameraman with a separate law. The mere fact that they intended to shoot it becomes an aggravating factor for sentencing.

Now, let’s look at the climate behind this poorly-drafted law.

France is one of many nations lobbying to take over ICANN. Using a reasonable-sounding argument of international egalitarianism, France wants to pull control over internet domain name registration and arbitration away from the United States. (note: ICANN is NOT an arm of the U.S. government, and remains an independent body.)

Now – once ICANN is shuffled off to international waters, it is suddenly more prone to strong-arming from various governments with more restrictive freedoms regarding speech and expression. That would be crappy for everyone… particularly here in the United States, where there IS no certification for “Authorized Media Provider.” Once you let the government define who can bring you the news, you let them silence the voices of dissent.

If you are indeed a journalist, start asking some better questions. Don’t take the word of a government official who tells you how the law will be interpreted. That’s a smokescreen. Demand that your “Happy Slapping” law gets spelled out TO THE LETTER. Don’t get suckered into giving up your liberty.

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