24 Hours after Charlie Hebdo incident, French lawmakers ban websites promoting or condoning terrorism

France government issues a Decree to ban websites inciting or condoning acts of terrorism and websites disseminating pornographic images or representations of minors

It took French government just 24 hours to rush in a Decree to ban websites which incite or condone acts of terrorism.

The new decree which was issued by European Commission on 8.1.2015 enables the French government and authorities to ban any website without any warrant or approval of judge.

France has been a liberal polity as far as freedom of speech is concerned.  Even satire magazine Charlie Hebdo was born out of the tumultaneous 1970 when industrial, labour and student revolutions were a everyday affair in France.  It was born as Hara Kiri and was banned for a brief period of 6 months. Its claim to fame and the reason for ban was the famous spoof in November 1970 when it released a cover headlined “Tragic Ball at Colombey, one dead.”  The cover was published after former French president Charles de Gaulle died in his home village of Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, eight days after a disaster in a nightclub, the Club Cinq-Sept fire, which caused the death of 146 people.  It was restarted in its current avatar in 1991 after Gébé, Cabu and others got together again during the gulf war.

Before this decree following websites were illegal and liable to be banned in France

  • Websites about pedopornography,
  • Negationism as in “The holocaust may have not happened”,
  • Justification of hate crimes and crimes against humanity.

Now with this decree the government and the authorities can ban any website which promotes child pornography websites or websites inciting or condoning acts of terrorism.  The Government through the Ministry of the Interior will now send the French ISP’s the list of electronic addresses of online public communication services failing to comply with the provisions of the Penal Code, in order that the service providers may block the websites in question within 24 hours. The chosen blocking technique shall operate at domain name level. The list of electronic addresses of online public communication services shall be sent to internet service providers by secure means, thereby guaranteeing that its confidentiality and integrity will be preserved. The decree also sets out the procedures whereby internet service providers may receive financial compensation from the State in respect of any costs incurred as a result of implementing this procedure.

France currently ranks 39 (2014 rank) on the Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.  The above decree is going to degrade French standing further as it may be seen as step against freedom of speech and press freedom.