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France bans citizen journalists from reporting violence

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 law could lead to the imprisonment of eyewitnesses who film acts of police violence or operators of Web sites publishing the images, one French civil liberties group warned. Anyone publishing footage of violent crimes could face up to five years in prison and a fine of €75,000 (US $98,537), potentially a harsher sentence than that for committing the violent act. The law, proposed by Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy, is an attempt to stop the offense of filming or distributing films of acts of violence targets the practice of "happy slapping," in which a violent attack is filmed by an accomplice, for the amusement of the attacker's friends.

The broad drafting of the law so as to criminalize the activities of citizen journalists unrelated to the perpetrators of violent acts is no accident, but rather a deliberate decision by the authorities, said Pascal Cohet, a spokesman for French online civil liberties group Odebi. He is concerned that the law, and others still being debated, will lead to the creation of a parallel judicial system controlling the publication of information on the Internet.

News source: Yahoo! News

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