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France rapped by internet freedom report

Matthew Warren · 13 Mar 2012, 09:25

Published: 13 Mar 2012 09:25 GMT+01:00

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France is the only European Union country to be placed "under surveillance" in a new report on internet freedom.

The annual report, published by campaign group Reporters Without Borders, lists countries considered to be "enemies of the internet" for censorship, restriction of internet freedom and harassment of online bloggers.

The list of internet enemies covers twelve countries, including China, Saudi Arabia and North Korea.

Bahrain and Belarus both joined the list in 2012.

France is the only European country to feature on the "under surveillance" list, which identifies countries that are not yet considered "enemies of the internet" but are on the organisation's radar.

France is criticised for policies which threaten to cut off internet access for people who repeatedly download content illegally.

Under the controversial HADOPI law (an acronym of the government agency set up to administer internet rights), users face a "three-strike" procedure if they download content illegally.

An email message to the offending user is followed by a certified letter. If the user continues to offend the internet service provider is required to suspend internet access for a period between two months and one year.

The country is also accused of "escalating lawsuits against journalistic sources" in a reference to criminal indictments against reporters covering a number of corruption and spying stories.

France was also criticised for ruling that Facebook and Twitter should not be mentioned by name on TV or radio.

In June 2011, broadcasting regulator CSA ruled that "redirecting [people] to pages by naming the social networks concerned is a form of publicity that violates the provisions of Article 9 of the March 27, 1992 decree prohibiting surreptitious advertising."

Other countries to be added to the "under surveillance" list in 2012 include Australia.

The country was criticised for its "dangerous content filtering system."

The Australian government has been successful in persuading internet service providers to create a system that blocks access to child pornography sites and others deemed inappropriate. 

France and Australia join countries including Russia, India and Egypt on the list. 

Reporters Without Borders said that "supposedly democratic countries continue to set a bad example by yielding to the temptation to prioritise security over other concerns and by adopting disproportionate measures to protect copyright."



Matthew Warren (news.france@thelocal.com)

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