France Hits Citizen Journalists With Censorship Sledgehammer

In a misguided attempt to crack down on the violent pranks of miscreant teenagers, France has banned citizen journos from video recording acts of violence they happen to witness. .

With its new Law relating to the Prevention of Delinquency, French legislators were responding to an increasing number of “happy slapping” pranks in which one fun-loving thug smacks an unwitting passer-by while the thug’s buddy records the incident on video. (This type of humor evidently appeals to bored teenagers; I guess I’m too old to get it…) .

enter Okay, so it’s already a crime to attack an innocent person – enforce the laws and prosecute the thugs. Instead, the French nanny-state has made it a crimnal offense for anyone but a professional journalist to record acts of violence – punishable by up to five years in prison!


Not sure what France intends to do about the unintended (?) chilling effect on citizen journalism, let alone video-taping tourists who happen upon a mugging (throw them all in jail; that will stop the happy-slappers!).


But there’s a deeper issue at stake: How does France intend to define “professional journalist?” Proponents of free speech and free press have always resisted any attempts to “certify” or “license” journalists, which is often a precursor to censorship in totalitarian regimes (or nanny states).


A sledgehammer is not an effective tool for swatting flies. You might actually kill a fly or two but what of the collateral damage inflicted along the way?

. - Jon Harmon


  1. gbaron says:

    Another interesting example of “Big Brother” governments getting squeamish about the freedom of the Internet. France, China and the Islamic states. I hope you keep up your interest in promoting the freedom of bloggers in countries who do not understand the benefits of such free expression.
    And, I still think it a good idea for Force For Good to offer the award–with great corporate sponsorship.

  2. Mihaela Lica says:

    This only shows us how bored politicians really are and how they waste their time on irrelevant “bans” and laws, instead of using the public money on something really useful for the society.

  3. Shannon McNicholas says:

    This has definetly become a hot topic among journalist and bloggers. Many research articles have responded to the topic in an effort to navigate the new medium and to define the new journalists. One interesting paper I came across was: “Are Bloggers Journalists-or Just Very Lonely Pamphleteers?” by Constance Davis. This paper tries to define journalism in general, and then seeks to find if blogging fits that definition.

  4. Rebecca Palmer says:

    This is reminiscent of the argument that media violence causes real world violence. For example, some have argued that violence shown in the media perpetrates violence acted out in real life (think video games and footage of school shootings). Do leaders in France really believe that if no one recorded the thugs’ violence, then they would not be moved to act violently in the first place? I think the effort to stop the “happy slapping” is being exerted in the wrong place and is coming close to censorship.

  5. Shonna King says:

    Excellent point! Censorship in this form can only create problems, not alleviate them. By making it a criminal offence for average citizens to record acts of violence, the French government is only enacting a law that is sure to terrify and alienate their citizens all in the hopes of stopping a few “happy-slapping” pranksters. From my point-of-view, this just seems like an extreme measure for the French government to take.

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