Freedoms and Laws




France has free press for the most part, although in some aspects they are limited. There is a freedom of information legislation, but there are exceptions to protect the reputation and rights of a third party. In January 2010 there was a law enacted stating that journalists can keep their sources confidential unless it is believed they are involved in a crime. This law is similar to the U.S. law called Federal Privacy Protection Law.

Prior to this law many officials were committing illegal searches of journalists offices. In one case five journalists from L’equipe and Le Point claimed that French officials had illegally searched their offices in 2005 while looking for information about their sources. The court ruled in favor of them. In another case from 2010 former prosecutor Philippe Courroye was accused of illegally obtaining telephone documents of journalists at Le Monde. 

France has strict defamation laws that includes hefty fines. It also has laws against justifying war crimes, crimes against humanity and incitement to discrimination and violence. A 1990 Gaysssot law states that denial of the Holocaust is a criminal offense.

France also has free internet although there are some restrictions. The government does not restrict the use of internet, but there are laws against copyright infringement and terrorism. Depending on other abuses the authorities have some power to limit online activity. In 2009 a law was created for people who illegally download copyright material. First they are given three warnings and after that their access is suspended for one year. In addition they can face fines and serve jail time for the violations. In 2012 officials decided to defund this law because it was a multi-million project which resulted in only one fine and two dismissed cases.

In 2006 an antiterrorism law went into effect. This law allows security agencies to monitor the internet for any possible terrorist activity. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy announced a proposal in which anyone frequently visiting websites advocating terrorism could face criminal charges.

France has freedom of speech, but does not condone hate speech. A person can say whatever they would like except if it insults others based on their race, religion or sex. “Hate speech laws were inspired by the horrors of the Second World War, and in particular the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews” says Christopher Mesnooh, an American attorney who practices law in France.



First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. France follows some of the freedoms in the First Amendment. It has freedom of speech, but it also has limitations to it. As long as it does not contain hate toward others and it does not interfere with Law and Order, French citizens can freely speak their mind. It also has freedom of the press, but it limits on what can be legally published. Libel is not protected by freedom of speech. If a person commits libel they must not only pay damages to the victim, but also to the government. Unlike the U.S., France does not tolerate hate speech. Overall, France is very similar to the U.S except that it limits certain topics to avoid discrimination among other things.