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Tuesday, 30 May, 2000, 22:33 GMT 23:33 UK
French law angers media
Paparazzi in France
France's paparazzi are facing Europe's toughest restrictions
The French parliament has passed a law on the presumption of innocence despite warnings that it will limit press freedom.

In the name of the freedom to inform we will publish pictures that fall under the Guigou law

Paris Match
The law was in part a response to the controversy surrounding the action of press photographers at the time of the car crash in Paris which killed Diana, Princess of Wales.

Under the law newspapers and magazines will no longer be able to publish photos of suspects wearing handcuffs or of scenes which "jeopardise a victim's dignity".

After the 1997 car crash, photographers were said to have jostled one another to get pictures of the princess and other victims trapped in the car.

Elizabeth Guigou
Guigou says the law defends individuals' rights
These pictures were never published.

BBC Paris correspondent James Coomarasamy says the legislation has been branded absurd, dangerous, even Soviet-style.


The legislation includes a broad bill boosting the rights of criminal suspects guaranteeing, for example, greater access to lawyers and the possibility of appeal against verdicts from criminal courts with a jury.

Justice Minister Elizabeth Guigou says it strikes a balance between press freedom and the rights of individual citizens.

Paris Match
Paris Match publishes some of the most graphic shots
Most of the French media disagrees. Newspapers have argued that some of the most powerful news photographs will now never be published.

The Guigou rules were also inspired by bomb attacks in Paris in 1995 and 1996, when some papers published shocking photographs of the victims, include a woman whose clothes had been partly blown off.

Press hostility

Paris Match said it would ignore the legislation and fight it in the European Court of Human Rights if challenged by the authorities.

Alma Tunnel 1997
Diana crash prictures caused public revulsion
It will be incumbent upon editors to decide which photographs infringe the new regulations, but if they are found in court to have broken the law they face a 100,000 francs ($14,200) fine.

"In the name of the freedom to inform, Paris Match is committed to publishing pictures that fall under the Guigou law," the magazine said in an editorial.

"This is a very bad thing, photographs of many important events will lose all their force," said Laurent Abadjian, photo editor at daily newspaper Liberation.

When the law was presented to parliament in 1999, there was a howl of protest from newspapers.

Le Figaro described the law as "dangerous" as it would make the media "describe a society without conflict, without tension and without life".

Despite the protests, the Senate gave the Guigou's law unanimous backing.

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