The Role Of French Defamation And Privacy Laws In Keeping DSK's 'Secrets'

from the did-this-really-help? dept

Over the weekend, one of the big news stories was the arrest of the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, often referred to by his initials "DSK," for allegedly sexually assaulting a maid at his hotel in New York. There are all sorts of reporting going on about this situation, and about DSK himself, with many of the reports noting both his penchant for fine living and claims that he was known around France for "womanizing," suggesting a potential history of such events. However, some are complaining that the press always hid such things, allowing DSK to continue on where perhaps he should have been stopped a while back.

However, Adam Gropnik does a nice job pointing out how French defamation and privacy laws are to blame for keeping news reporters from really discussing DSK's questionable activities in the past. In fact, a few years back, DSK made it clear that he would sue anyone who spread "rumors" about his personal life. In conjunction with stories of super injunctions in the UK and Max Mosley's now failed attempt to expand privacy laws in Europe to protect famous people from having their private lives displayed in the newspapers, it begins to raise some serious questions.

Lots of people sympathize with the basic argument that your private life is private, and it seems unfair to have private affairs spread across the news. And yet, if someone really is doing something egregious -- or potentially harmful -- is seeking to gag the press and others from making that information public only giving them cover to progress further and commit potentially heinous acts?

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  1. identicon
    -, 18 May 2011 @ 6:37am

    It's not press' duty to expose and punish criminals.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2011 @ 6:43am


    I think it's definitely the press' responsibility to expose and/or report on potential criminal activity when they have knowledge of it ESPECIALLY when it concerns an elected official, persons appointed by elected officials, and business leaders whose actions could have a major effect on stock price and consumer opinion of the company.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2011 @ 6:51am

    The press should be able to print anything it wants, and be punished only if it is significantly incorrect. This will give them incentive to get the details correct and still provide for a free press.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2011 @ 7:32am


    What? It is absolutely the press' job to expose criminal behavior (among other things). The ability of the press to uncover and disseminate information that other's would rather be kept secret is precisely the job of the press.

    Punish? No, that would be the court's job, so I agree with that part of your statement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2011 @ 7:46am


    You have failed to explain how any press entity, anywhere in the world, could possibly "punish" anyone. You clearly do not grasp what the word "punish" means, nor do you comprehend what the role of the press is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    david, 18 May 2011 @ 8:32am

    europe's privacy laws are in response to the supreme court allowing papers and tv channels to outright make shit up. which is worse a press with it's hands tied or a press that's holding a gun to your head and riffling through your wallet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Josef Anvil (profile), 18 May 2011 @ 8:48am

    Re: A fine example

    Awww c'mon Mike. If this comment isn't a shining example of why you need to add a "moron" button, I don't know what is.

    It is most definitely the press' duty to expose criminals. It can be argued that such exposure can be construed as punishment, though that duty actually falls on the court systems.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Ikarushka (profile), 18 May 2011 @ 10:21am

    One man's right to speak freely is very often another man's privacy violation. The balance is delicate, and each society sets its own.

    Therefore I would pay much more attention to French hypocrites' opinions rather to American hypocrites' speculations on the matter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    -, 18 May 2011 @ 10:30am

    Re: Re:

    No, their responsibility is exposing it to the police.

    Their business is exposing it to the public, but it's entirely different matter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    -, 18 May 2011 @ 10:35am

    Re: Re:

    Ask Berlusconi.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Gil, 18 May 2011 @ 10:43am

    In Europe, criminals are arrested by the police and also "gendarmes" (in France). Any journalist can do any type of investigation he/she wants on anyone but they wont have access to confidential stuff. They wont be allowed to track people down to their house though...

    So how is it working ? If they find something suspicious, they just have to go to the nearest police station (or even just call the police if it's urgent). Then the police would take over from them. Simple isn't it ?

    In the end, it's just different culture, but it seems very weird to us to tell that DSK was helped to do what he is charged for because EU laws protect individual privacy... Journalists keep writing things about famous people in EU as often as US journalists do. They might not be able to camp 10 meters away from "the target's" house but they can do it in numbers of other ways... We know almost anything about our president, same thing about DSK : his past as "womanizer" is known...

    But the big question is: WTF ? He likes women, it's true... Are you insinuating that every man that loves "women" should be put in jail in prevention ? This is kinda funny : it's a cliché but then italian houses should be called "jails"... In the end, letting journalists following him nights and days would have changed absolutely nothing !

    Oh, just for you to know : what DSK told journalists about rumors is true, but basically, at least in EU, you are not allowed to publicly spread unfounded rumors... If I publish a paper in a serious newspaper telling that this article writer raped and killed 3 women, that wouldn't be allowed in EU. Would it in the US ? If so, the victim can do two things : accepting newspaper excuses or suing them. DSK made it clear from the start that he would systematically sue them. Doh ! Surprising !

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Ikarushka (profile), 18 May 2011 @ 11:16am

    What I can't accept is the public perception of vices (even if they are a very small ones by one's society standards) as evidence. And that's exactly what happens to my disgust.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Ikarushka (profile), 18 May 2011 @ 11:43am

    Re: Re:

    Reading Merriam-Webster:

    1 : the act of punishing
    2 a : suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution
    b : a penalty inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure
    3 : severe, rough, or disastrous treatment

    In my opinion exposing minor vices in a puritan society well covered by #3. Disastrous treatment. Ruined carriers, families and friendships are not disasters. Are they?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Frenchy, 18 May 2011 @ 1:21pm


    French are shocked because he embodied the french futur president for a large part of youth, moreover, in US you can show a handcuffed personne on mass media indeed presumption of innocence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    kse, 19 May 2011 @ 1:59am

    just to answer

    Press has to disclose and broadcast trully audited information.
    Gossips are poison in any areas.

    Could you just imagine how paintfull could be difamation and how it could damage reputation?

    In your mind, jurnalists have good intentions, willingness to inform poeple.
    But you're aside road way... Press wants to sale news papers and doesn't care about veracity of the content information.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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