Press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders says it is worried by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s proposal that “any person who habitually consults websites that advocate terrorism or call for hatred and violence” should be criminally punished, saying it could have serious consequences for investigative journalism.
Sarkozy's proposal comes after the killings of three French paratroopers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi believed to have been committed by Mohamed Merah.
“We do not in any way defend violent or terrorist websites, but we think that the president’s statement was made in the heat of the moment and went after the wrong target by focusing on the internet,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“The proposed solution is disproportionate and could lead to a generalised internet surveillance that threatens individual freedoms by enlisting Internet service providers in an attempt to identify those who consult such websites.
“The president’s proposal could give rise to abuses that curtail freedom of access to online information. Protecting national security is obviously essential but the methods proposed are not the right ones and pose a serious threat to fundamental rights.”
RWB added: "Such measures could also have serious consequences for investigative journalism and studies of terrorism. How can one investigate the growing use by terrorist groups of the internet and social networks without monitoring what they post online?"