Wednesday, November 09, 2005

French Bloggers and the Riots

You will often hear journalists in America and other free nations lament the treatment of journalists in some more oppressive countries. Reporters Without Borders, for example, speaks out regularly on behalf of reporters who try to find the truth, even when putting their own lives, and those of their families, at risk.

But I wonder if this commitment to free speech around the world trickles down to bloggers. The French Government arrested two bloggers today for what is seen as their roles in the Paris riots. The charge being "inciting harm to people and property over the internet" seems particularly troubling to me.

I have not read their blogs, as I don't speak French, and I can't judge whether they took part in other actions that may or may not be illegal under French law. But if they are in jail only because they wrote things that the government finds inflammatory, then that is just wrong. Should the government start to crack down on everyone with a computer, for fear they'll spread thoughts that are determined to be against the best interest of the country? Haven't we been down this road before?

This is why I'm not a fan of the federal shield law as it is currently written. Because it specifically ignores bloggers, it creates a "second class" of journalists, sanctioned by the federal government. Yes, I know this technically applies to only specific situations and limited circumstances. But the concept just leaves me feeling a bit nervous. I'd rather the law be inclusive, like the one proposed in Massachusetts (I'll post more on that later).

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