Censored: Copwatch France
Copwatch Nord-Paris IDF, a website that publicizes incidents of police brutality and misconduct, has been blocked in France.
The site has been charged with “defaming and putting at risk the safety of police officers.” On October 14 Interior Minister Claude Gueant filed a formal legal complaint against the site. Copwatch went offline later that week, and access is currently blocked within France via the country’s six largest internet providers.
Founded in Berkeley, California in 1990, Copwatch is an international network of sites that documents police action through videos and photographs. Copwatch’s directors call it a “vehicle to monitor those who oppress us.”
“On Wednesday October 5, plain clothes cops were photographed again performing a random identification check. There are four or five officers who regularly patrol this area. Commissariat de la Goutte is their station. They probably belong to the BAC or the GSP. Easily recognizable, their targets are non-criminal suspects in the surrounding areas…” A sample posting from Copwatch Nord-Paris IDF (translated from the French)
Content on Copwatch Nord-Paris IDF includes pictures and videos of police officers arresting suspects, taunting protesters, and allegedly committing acts of violence against members of ethnic minorities. France’s Alliance Police Nationale deemed such content capable of inciting violence against the police, and Gueant claimed that the posting of the names, photographs, and sometimes the addresses of offending officers, “harms the personnel of the interior ministry and jeopardizes their and their families’ safety.”
In a November 9 statement released on the Copwatch Nord-Paris IDF site, administrators said, “By informing people, we are doing preventive work that can perhaps help some people avoid arrest or allow others to identify a police officer in order to file a complaint.”
Despite the blockage, Copwatch Nord-Paris IDF has continued posting instances of police misconduct into the month of November.
The suppression of Copwatch Nord-Paris IDF is part of a growing international trend to block citizens groups and journalists from reporting on police activity, misconduct, and corruption–as well as impunity for enforcers of the law. As of 2008, journalists and citizens have been threatened, intimidated, arrested, censored and murdered in Bangladesh, Brazil, Russia and Kenya, among others.