- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2007

PARIS A new law in France makes it a crime for anyone who is not a professional journalist to shoot footage of real-world violence and distribute the images on the Internet.

Critics call it a clumsy effort to battle “happy slapping,” the youth fad of videotaping violent acts which most often they have provoked and spreading the images on the Web or between mobile phones.

The measure, tucked deep into a vast anti-crime law that took effect yesterday, has alarmed press advocates who say it tramples on freedom of expression.

Ligue Odebi, an association that seeks to protect freedom of expression on the Internet, said the measure also will hinder citizens’ abilities to expose police brutality.

“This makes France the Western country that most infringes on freedom of expression and information particularly on the Internet,” the group said on its Web site.

The measure has implications for online video sites such as YouTube or France’s Dailymotion.com. Authorities could ask them to identify the sources of images made available through their sites.

In a related development, Turkey blocked access to YouTube’s Web site yesterday because some videos reportedly insulted the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Paul Doany, head of Turk Telekom, Turkey’s largest tele- communications provider, said his company immediately began enforcing a court-ordered ban.

Visitors to the YouTube site from Turkey were greeted with the message: “Access to this site has been blocked by a court decision.”

The French law targets “happy slapping,” a phenomenon that began in Britain and whose name belies the gravity of the attacks. Violators will be subject to up to five years in prison and nearly $100,000 in fines.

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