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French lawmakers pursue outlawing publication of ‘embarrassing’ photos

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    NMU         FRANCE         Press at Home & Abroad         Oct 4, 1999    

French lawmakers pursue outlawing publication of ‘embarrassing’ photos

  • French Parliament has approved amendments to existing laws that would impose fines to punish the publication or broadcast of “embarrassing or incriminating” photographs

Lawmakers in France are not smiling at some of the candid photographs that have turned up in the media, and they are proposing new ways to limit what the public gets to see.

Both houses of Parliament last spring approved amending the law to impose a fine on any publication or television station that runs an “embarrassing or incriminating” photograph, such as a person in police handcuffs who has not been convicted of a crime.

The proposed revisions, which also seek to protect a crime victim photographed in a humiliating pose, will likely be reviewed and then approved early next year, according to a Washington Post story that appeared in late September.

Officials say they needed to “strike a balance between freedom of information and the rights of individuals” after receiving complaints from survivors of a terrorist bombing in Paris in 1995. A widely circulated photograph from that event shows one survivor, from the back, with much of her clothes blown off.

But opponents say the changes are a thinly veiled attempt to punish the paparazzi in the wake of the 1997 death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Nine photographers and a photo-agency motorcyclist who followed the Mercedes carrying Diana and her companion, Dodi al-Fayed, were arrested at the scene of the deadly crash and charged with manslaughter. It was later learned that the car’s driver, Henri Paul, who also died, was legally drunk at the time of the crash.

In early September, nearly two years after the accident, the French prosecutors found no wrongdoing on the part of the group and recommended that all charges be dismissed. A decision is expected in October.

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