France Bans Non-reporters from Covering Riots

Following the election of conservative candidate Nicolas Sarkozy to France's presidency, there have been a series of riots from angry protesters upset at his victory. Unfortunately, it's a little hard to know much about the rioters due to the French government's passing a law that makes it a crime to report on riots unless you are a professional journalist:

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 on Tuesday.

The council chose an unfortunate anniversary to publish its decision
approving the law, which came exactly 16 years after Los Angeles police
officers beating Rodney King were filmed by amateur videographer George
Holliday on the night of March 3, 1991. The officers’ acquittal at the
end on April 29, 1992 sparked riots in Los Angeles.

If Holliday were to film a similar scene of violence in France
today, he could end up in prison as a result of the new law, said
Pascal Cohet, a spokesman for French online civil liberties group
Odebi. And anyone publishing such images 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.

Charles Johnson makes the point that this is a suppression of free speech, however, I don't think the law was ill-intended. It seems to me the law is trying to prevent third-party web sites and political groups from glorifying violent protesters.

Still, I am generally opposed to laws banning freedom of political speech so I think on balance the law is bad.

Oh, and before you wonder if this is another example of unnecessary forbearance to France's Islamic underclass, that does not appear to be the case:

The troublemakers this week have been mostly white, whereas the 2005
riots involved many black and Arab youth angry over discrimination and
alienation from mainstream society. This week's protesters resembled
some of the young people who helped bring down a minor labor reform
last year through mass demonstrations.

Sarkozy's reforms promise to be tougher, and are certain to meet similar street protests.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013