Afrique Ameriques Asie Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
France5 April 2004

Senate will finally debate the LEN law on 8 April

Reporters Without Borders pressed senators to hold urgent talks with rights groups as it emerged that a late postponement of a Senate debate on the LEN law was not to allow more debating time but because of parliamentary agenda changes, mainly due to the Queen of England’s visit to France.

The president of the Senate announced on the morning of 6 April that the Law on confidence in the digital economy (LEN) would now be debated on 8 April instead of 7 April as originally scheduled.

The international press freedom organisation called for dialogue with organisations defending individual freedoms on Article 2 of LEN, which relates to the responsibilities of Internet Service Providers.

The organisation also urged all Internet workers and Internet-users to mobilise to counter the draft law that will open the way to abusive censorship.

5 April 2005

Bill to Promote Confidence in Digital Economy poised for final reading in Senate

Reporters Without Borders today reiterated its opposition to the Bill to Promote Confidence in Digital Economy (known as the LEN), which is supposed to translate a June 2000 European Union directive into French law and which will have its final reading before the senate in a public session on 7 April.

The organisation urged senators to seize this last chance to amend the law so that it respects the rights of Internet users and online content editors. As it stands, the bill is a threat to free expression on the Internet as it would privatise the work of judges and force Internet hosts to act as censors, the organisation said.

"If the LEN is approved, excessive Internet censorship is likely to ensue," Reporters Without Borders said. "Italy, Spain and Belgium refused to turn hosts into Internet judges although they were implementing the same EU directive, so we call on the senators to ensure that only real judges will have the power to censor the Internet."

Reporters Without Borders already criticised the LEN at the time of its second reading before the National Assembly (see To judge by the economic affairs commission report released by Senators Pierre Hérisson and Bruno Sido, the senate may be ready to make improvements to the bill. The report opposed forcing Internet Service Providers to screen for illegal content, as required by the version approved by the National Assembly.

All the same, the bill’s most problematic aspect, requiring hosts to censor online content, is unchanged. This is a danger interpretation of the EU directive. Italy and Spain opted to give a "competent body" the power to determine the legality of disputed content, while Belgium assigned this responsibility to the state prosecutor.

These three countries realised the danger of privatising judicial authority over the Internet. Reporters Without Borders calls on France’s senators also to take account of this danger and to amend article 2 of the LEN so that it is left to judges to say what online content is illegal and must be suppressed.

As Reporters Without Borders has explained in the past, article 2 of the LEN says hosting companies are responsible for the content of the webpages on the sites they host. Hosts would become liable under common law if they did not "act promptly" to block content "after becoming aware of their unlawful nature."

But how are service providers supposed to decide whether or not content is lawful? Only judges are qualified to do this in France. Internet users would be able to demand the immediate withdrawal of content they consider unlawful. Website hosts - who oppose the bill - would be forced to censor any content likely to be deemed unlawful for fear of being found criminally liable, with penalties of up to a year in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros for the manager of a service provider.

The LEN’s advocates argue that website hosts would be protected by a clause in the bill making improper accusations of illegality punishable by a year in prison and a fine of 15,000 euros. Nonetheless, legal decisions would still have to be taken by commercial companies, and they are not qualified to do this.

  In this country
29 May - France
Regrettable decision by appeal court to lift ban on magazine only if offending photo is covered up
12 May - France
TV reporter cleared of inciting teenager in body piercing “suspension”
2 April - France
“Dangerous trend” condemned after anti-crime unit questions four journalists over Sarkozy video
26 March - France
Two website journalists summoned for questioning about Sarkozy video
4 March - France
Anger over new case of journalists being treated as “police auxiliaries or even criminals”

in the annual report
France - Annual Report 2008
France - Annual report 2007
France - 2006 Annual report

Europe press releases
4 June - Kosovo
Rrokum TV station still excluded by national broadcasting network
2 June - Ukraine
Potential witness’s death deals severe blow to probe into journalist’s murder
2 June - Turkey
Woman journalist held for past five weeks on baseless charge of link to armed group
2 June - Russia
Journalist seeks asylum in Finland after being convicted for prison torture articles
28 May - Azerbaijan
Court breaks law by refusing to release journalist on health grounds

5 February 2009 - Bulgaria
“Resignation or resistance, Bulgaria’s embattled press hesitates”
28 January 2009 - Russia
Fact-finding visit : Moscow double murder may have been linked to November attack on local newspaper editor
27 June 2008 - Turkey
Investigation report into the detention of journalist Haci Bogatekin, imprisoned for more than two months and facing ten and a half years in prison

Sign the petitions
Jusuf Ruzimuradov

Europe archives
2009 archives
2008 archives
2007 archives
2006 archives
2005 archives
2004 archives
2003 archives
2002 archives
2001 archives
2000 archives