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France council approves law to bar amateur journalists reporting on violence

[JURIST] The French Constitutional Council [official website] has upheld a law banning anyone other than professional reporters from filming or broadcasting acts of violence. Violators would face up to five years in prison and a fine of €75,000 (US$98,537). French lawmakers say the ban, proposed by Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French; JURIST news archive], will help stamp out delinquency, but critics view it as attempt to suppress the free flow of information. Pascal Cohet, a spokesman for French online civil liberties group Odebi [advocacy website], said it was so broadly worded it could be used to prosecute witnesses who film acts of police violence. Reporters Without Borders [advocacy website] decried [press release] the law's potential to intimidate amateur "citizen journalists."

The French government has also proposed a system to certify news websites that follow certain rules as official government-approved sources of information. Reporters Without Borders warned the plan could encourage websites to suppress stories unfavorable to the government out of fear of losing their certification. IDG has more.

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