Punishing users of extremist websites
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed a law to punish readers of websites promoting terrorism and violence, writes Clementine de Montjoye.
France's Interior Minister and leader of the French ruling Conservative party UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) Nicolas Sarkozy votes on a computer at the party's headquarters in Paris in this January 11, 2006 file photo. Cyberspace is turning into a hotly contested arena in this year's French presidential elections, as candidates seek to harness the Internet's vast but volatile resources to give them a decisive edge. To match feature. (REUTERS/Charles Platiau/Files)
On 15th March 2012, Mohammed Merah killed two soldiers of the French army and left a third in a coma. A few days later, on19th March, Merah attacked a Jewish school in Toulouse shooting at point blank range a teacher and three children. It emerged from the investigation that Merah had been consulting jihadist websites and had been to Pakistan twice, arousing suspicions in the DCRI, the French intelligence agency. On 22 March 2012, in the aftermath of the attacks, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced his intention of imposing stricter anti-terrorist measures. These included a proposed law condemning internet users who regularly visit websites promoting terrorism and violence. Inspired by the 2007 law aimed at regular users of child pornography websites, Sarkozy claimed that the criminilisation of this offence would allow quicker arrests of suspects without having to wait for tangible proof, and argued that had this law been implemented before, Merah might have been stopped earlier. Reporters Without Borders underlined the potential risks of such measures restricting free access to information and asked Sarkozy to be more specific about the methods that would be used to enforce this law.