Sarkozy: Jail terror website browsers

2012-03-22 21:40

Paris - France's president proposed a sweeping new law on Thursday that would jail those who visit extremist web sites - one of several tough new measures floated in the wake of a murderous shooting spree.

The proposed rules, unveiled by Nicolas Sarkozy after the death of an Islamist fanatic wanted for a horrifying series of execution-style murders, have alarmed journalists and legal experts, who say they risk pulling the plug on free expression.

Sarkozy argued that it was time to treat those who browse extremist websites the same way as those who consume child pornography.

"Anyone who regularly consults internet sites which promote terror or hatred or violence will be sentenced to prison," he told a campaign rally in Strasbourg, in eastern France. "What is possible for paedophiles should be possible for trainee terrorists and their supporters, too."

How the proposed rules would work isn't clear. When asked, Sarkozy's office directed the query for details to the Ministry of Justice, which didn't immediately offer clarification.

Journalists and lawyers are concerned.

"Trying to criminalize a visit - a simple visit - to a website, that's something that seems disproportionate," said Lucie Morillon, who runs the new media bureau of journalists' watchdog group Reporters Without Borders.

"What's especially worrying for us is how you are going to know who's looking at what site. Does this announcement mean the installation of a global internet surveillance system in France?"

Media lawyer Christophe Bigot seconded her concerns, saying that any such law - if passed - would be a serious blow to the democratic credentials of a country that considers itself the home of human rights.

Source of all evil

"I don't see how you can assume that a person who connects [to an extremist website] not only shares the ideas that are being expressed there but is ready to act on them," Bigot said. "That seems to be a very dangerous short cut - a real step back in terms of individual liberty."

Bigot said it wasn't clear to him to what degree Sarkozy's proposals were serious. The president is only a month from a close election and has France's far-right nipping at his heels, so he's been under pressure to appear tough.

The tightening presidential race has been upended by the shooting rampage blamed on Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent who allegedly killed three French paratroopers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi before dying in a violent confrontation with police in the southern French city of Toulouse earlier on Thursday.

Merah reportedly told police that the campaign of terror was an attempt to "bring France to its knees," and a poll released on Thursday by the CSA firm suggested that Sarkozy may benefit politically from a hardening of attitudes toward extremism.

Morillon said she understood the emotional appeal of a crackdown on online radicalisation in the wake of such atrocities.

Still, she said, "you have to be careful not to attack the wrong target".

"Once more it's the internet that's being blamed, as if the internet was the source of all evil."

  • mike.clery - 2012-03-22 21:57

    "the installation of a global internet surveillance system in France". Do they seriously believe there isn't one already?

      Squeegee - 2012-03-22 22:04

      This is dangerous stuff - messing with the right to read. I'm all against extremism but all for freedom to read about it. Next you will not be able to read about corruption or visit a religious website, or an opposition political viewpoint. Mmmm The Info Bill, oops, its already here.

      pws69 - 2012-03-23 02:14

      Hermann - 2012-03-23 05:55

      Paranoia struck Sarkozy on the eve of elections. This sounds like a dangerous pipe dream. Hope it will also apply to the French secret service agents.

      Mattewis - 2012-03-23 11:01

      So this is how liberalism in France will cave-in on itself? You first create a free-for-all liberal environment where all cultures mix, and when you get the idea it doesn't work, you go "totalitarian police state"? This makes about as much sense as the design of a french car! "These Gauls are crazy"!

  • Badgerspoon - 2012-03-22 22:07

    Watch it France, you're giving the ANC government some new ideas...

      Adrian - 2012-03-22 22:31

      Maybe it's the ANC who have give France some ideas!

  • Jonathan - 2012-03-22 22:17

    The shootings were definitely terrible, however this proposed measure is very alarming! Who decides what constitutes extreme? This is the first step a government takes in eliminating it's political opponents. Soon anyone that does not share the same ideology as the ruling party can be labeled as 'extremists' and can be imprisoned. Especially when considering the recent gains Marine Le Pens party has made; Sarkozy would probably like to label them as extremists as well, since he blindly blamed the Right for the attacks even before any details were known.

  • Michael - 2012-03-22 22:26

    To everyone commenting here. SA: Protection of info act. The USA govt has already made agreements with major service providers, and they're shutting down "unsavoury" sites. The violent crackdown on protestors everywhere in the world, the scam of Kony and The Invisible Children (Kony's been dead for seven years), the pressure on Syria/Iran/Russia. Folks, it's word war iii, and it's coming, maybe within weeks, probably within months. It's here. Everything every normal person has always feared. In the hands of a few politicians, everything's going according to plan. The bankers WANT the world to tear itself apart, so that there's less people to cull, to make way for their new world. Obama has declared martial law in the USA, and he's signed an order that his troops can take anything they want from the people: food, electricity, valuables, men for his army, water, equipment, cars buses etc all for "national security". Euro, UK and USA govt's have been using false flag operations since 911. And Al Qaeda? a pure fiction, admitted by the CIA chief in charge of hunting the phantom down. Google it.

      pws69 - 2012-03-23 02:04

      I cannot believe you got a thumbs down. Some people are obviously wilfully ignorant. Concise but accurate comment.

  • Michael - 2012-03-22 22:28

    oh, and interesting that Sarkozy needed a gunman to shoot people in order for him to gain a narrow lead, isn't it? "While Hollande has so far enjoyed a large lead over Sarkozy whose economic record and showy style left many voters dissatisfied, his response to Monday's shootings has improved his image." they were neck and neck, but now Sarkozy is 2% ahead

      Art - 2012-03-22 22:31

      Michael... stop "FISHING".... you don't know what you talking about!

  • Art - 2012-03-22 22:30

    Tie this bastard to a tree... and let the deceased's family have pot shots at him... also with live ammo! Wonder how hard he is going to pray to his God?

  • Ethan - 2012-03-22 22:39

    The ANC will soon jump on this wagon.......this will surely strengthen their push for Secrecy Bill. WE have open tolling , police running wild, president who wants to change Constitution and review of judiciary powers. Welcome to the police state and the tyranny of teh NEW WORLD ORDER

  • pws69 - 2012-03-23 01:48

    Who decides what is extremist? NWO agenda at work here.

  • wayne.jubber - 2012-03-23 10:53

    Poor old Sarkozy just like Little Napoleon before him he has delusions of grandeur. It is worrying that a few despot politicians can decide for the world what is good and what is bad! Seem that us mere mortal and stupid citizens cant think for ourselves anymore

  • Greg - 2012-03-23 11:04

    I agree that all websites that deal with terrorism, pedaephilia, etc. must be shut down / banned from the internet. I mean what is the purpose of a website that teaches you how to make explosives or that glorifies murder and mayhem or child abuse, etc.??? Even the most rational minds would agree that there must be a minimum moral standard to the internet that does not violate the universal laws protecting the human person.

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