21 March 2007

From the openDemocracy forums, an interesting post on "citizen journalism" and the use of internet:

France's Constitutional Court approved a law banning citizens from filming violence; the penalty for breaking it can include up-to five years in prison and a fine of 75,000 Euros. It was proposed by presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy perhaps in an early bid to capture some populist moral conservative kudos. It was touted as an attempt to clamp down on "happy slapping", a teenage prank where a complete stranger is slapped and reaction is filmed. However, a French George Holliday (the bystander who videoed the infamous beating of Rodney King) would now be culpable under this new law and be facing five years in prison himself.

The lesson here is simply that the state cannot be trusted to regulate the internet without seeking to extend it's own power. Of course, this will always be claimed to be in the interests of the people but the reality is that state?s always act first and foremost to preserve themselves, often from the people. Politicians such as Sarkozy will seize on uglier aspects of the internet and exploit them to win support for laws that may appear reasonable but in fact extend state power unreasonably. Britain's Times is considered a "small"  conservative newspaper but even its commentator was forced to describe the new law as "broad worded" and point out that democratic societies and totalitarian states hold an equally deep suspicion of citizen journalists.

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