Citizen Media Watch

mars 7th, 2007

Citizen journalists banned from video reporting of violence in France

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

In France, neither filming nor broadcasting violent content is allowed for anyone else than professional journalists. This is the result of a law that’s recently been approved by the French Constitutional Council, writes InfoWorld. This disturbing news has met with outrage from bloggers and anyone concerned about free speech. The fact that the decision was published on the date of the Rodney King beating hasn’t exactly made the council look any better. The police officers who beat Rodney King were filmed by a citizen journalist.

Reporters without borders issued a statement voicing their concern about the law being a threat to free speech.

The sections of this law supposedly dealing with ‘happy slapping’ in fact have a much broader scope, and posting videos online showing violence against people could now be banned, even if it were the police who were carrying out the violence

Happy slapping is when a gang beats up someone, films the event and spreads the film – just for ”fun”. This is what the law is meant to prevent, but as it is written, it will effect citizen journalists doing important work.
Reporters without borders goes on to talk about how important ordinary citizens are as ”recorders” of the authorities’ activities around the world, naming Egypt as a recent example where bloggers have revealed scandals involving security services. Video recording played an essential part in revealing the widespread use of torture.

In the field of human rights, it is them and not professional journalists who have been responsible for the most reliable reports and information – the information that has most upset the government. Reporters Without Borders thinks it would be shocking if this kind of activity, which constitutes a safeguard against abuses of authority, were to be criminalized in a democratic country.

Odebi, a civil liberties group in France, has collected some of the response to the news.

In Sweden, anyone can actually be a journalist in the sense that there is no required education you have to have in order to call yourself a journalist. You need to work as a journalist to be a member of the journalists union and get a press card though.
I am not sure how this works in France, but I am assuming they have some kind of journalist card to define who’s a professional journalist. If not, it would be interesting to know how they distinguish between citizen and professional journalists. And what about journalists who blog on their free time? If I, for instance, would film a French police officer beating up an innocent person, and I would blog about it here, would that be against the French law? I don’t blog here as a journalist, but as a citizen.

(via Beta Alfa)


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2 Responses to ' Citizen journalists banned from video reporting of violence in France '

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  1. on april 13th, 2007 at 9:31 f m

    > I am assuming they have some kind of journalist card to define who’s a professional journalist. If not, it would be interesting to know how they distinguish between citizen and professional journalists.

    Citizen journalists are not recognized legally in any way.

    Professional journalists (defined as people earning more than half of their revenue from a journalistic activity in a press organization) get a press card.


  2. on april 13th, 2007 at 9:56 f m

    David, thanks for the clarification on that. Would they be considered journalists even if they reported something on a blog on their free time?

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