Internet freedom, France “under surveillance”

Reporters Without Borders, a press freedoms watchdog, has placed France on its watch list of countries “under surveillance” because of concerns over freedom of expression on the Internet.

France watchlisted because of concerns about Internet freedom.

Lucie Morillon, head of New Media at Reporters Without Borders (RSF-Reporters sans frontières) told the French news agency AFP, as reported by Le :”It is important for us to watch practices in repressive countries but also to keep an eye on our democracies, and in this case there are a number of things that concern us about France”.

“Obviously France is not China or Iran, and clearly we must keep matters in perspective. But as an organisation we have been asking ourselves for several months now whether we should put France ‘under surveillance’ “, she said. This has now been done and so since March 12th, France joins sixteen other countries placed “under surveillance” by the association. A further 10 (such as China, Iran and Cuba) are classified by RSF to be “enemies of the Internet” .

RSF says its main concerns about France relate to the HADOPI law aimed at controlling illegal downloading and to LOPPSI 2, a portmanteau bill ostensibly concerned with internal security but extensively covering Internet issues including matters such as Internet filtering.

According to Lucie Morillon, LOPPSI 2 and HADOPI have “on behalf of entirely legitimate goals” such as the fight against child pornography, “put in place mechanisms that could be dangerous for online freedom of expression” .

RSF believes that Internet access is a “fundamental right” and it is “unacceptable” to block access in the ways set out under Hadopi in respect of measures against illegal downloading. As for Loppsi 2 , RSF said it is firmly opposed to “the establishment of an administrative Web filtering mechanism without court order: because once such a ‘psychological barrier’ has been crossed it opens the door to further justifications for filtering websites ” .

In its arguments related to its classification of France, Reporters Without Borders also noted that 2010 had been “a difficult year for online journalists and their sources”, with journalists working on embarrassing or sensitive stories finding their computers and hard drives “burgled or stolen”. There are, Lucie Morillon said, “a number of pressures creating a climate of concern for online journalism in France”.

“The fact that France is under surveillance is not surprising”, said Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net which defends online freedom of expression. “For several years we have been watching a dangerous shift in France, with the introduction of some very repressive measures. The government would seem to be on a crusade against the Internet”.

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One Response to Internet freedom, France “under surveillance”

  1. Pingback: Security Bill: Is France Abrogating the Revolution’s Pledges on Liberté? | FrenchNewsOnline

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