Reporters Without Borders said Monday it approves of a request by the National Digital Council (CNN) to President Nicolas Sarkozy to be consulted about any draft legislation based on his 22 March proposal that “habitually” visiting websites that “advocate terrorism or call for hatred and violence” should be a criminal offence (read Reporters Without Borders press release).
The CNN made its request in a letter to the president on 23 March voicing concern about the proposal and stressing that fundamental freedoms should not be sacrificed in order to combat cyber-crime and defend national security.
“Your proposal raises several questions as regards, for example, the method of identifying the person who commits this offence, existing legislation (such as the eCommerce directive) and the fact that Internet service providers are not obliged to keep a user’s browsing history,” the council’s letter said. “Furthermore, use of these sites by certain professions (such as journalists and university academics) and their ability to look at them regularly could raise legitimate difficulties when it comes to enforcing this offence.”
The council also stressed the importance of consulting all the parties concerned before parliament debates the proposed legislation, as it could have a serious impact on Internet freedom.
The CNN “must be able to carry out an expert assessment of the proposed legislative measure before any parliamentary debate,” the letter said. “Such an expert assessment, assisted by consultation with various actors (in particular, the police and gendarmerie, and civil society), would enable clarification of the proposed measure and would ensure that the various rights and freedoms involved were reconciled.”
Reporters Without Borders hopes that the government will agree to the CNN’s request and it reiterates its warning about the danger of abuses that could result from extensive Internet surveillance.