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October 12, 2006

French parliament approves bill on Armenian Genocide denial

French parliament approves bill on Armenian Genocide denial

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

An article published in the New York Times on December 15, 1915 on the Armenian Genocide.

Today, the French National Assembly passed a bill that would penalise what the bill calls negationism of the Armenian Genocide. The French government however opposes the bill; Catherine Colonna, Minister charged with European Affairs, reacted that “It’s the task, first and foremost, of historians and not of lawmakers to clarify history.”

The label “genocide” is disputed by the Turkish government, who has called the vote a “serious blow” to diplomatic relations. Turkey has been known to prosecute Turkish intellectuals who discuss the Armenian genocide, including recent Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk. Under the Turkish Penal Code, “prosecution for anti-national plots” faces those who call “for the recognition of the Armenian genocide”.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdoğan had warned France to look into its own colonial past in Africa instead of demanding Turkish recognition of the events. Ali Babacan, the Turkish Minister of Economy, in Brussels for talks on Turkey’s E.U.-membership, said he could not exclude that people would start boycotting French products in Turkey. In a recent visit to Armenia, the French President Jacques Chirac launched the idea that recognition as a “genocide” would be necessary for Turkey to enter the E.U., causing the media to label it as the “Chirac criterion”. The European Commission, which has confirmed that such a criterion would not be instituted, deplored the initiative of the French parliament, because it could damage contacts with the European Union.

Political map showing countries and individual U.S. states which have recognized the Armenian Genocide.

Most historians view the events comprising the Armenian genocide as a state-sponsored plan of mass extermination. Their reasons include various eye witness reports, Turkey’s recruitment of violent criminals to posts within the “Special Organization”, and the sheer number of dead, estimates of which remain as high as 1.5 million. Some politically influential countries like the U.S., Canada, and France have driven efforts to interpret these events as an attempt to eradicate an ethnic group. The Turkish government, as well as a few historians, estimate the number of casualties much lower, and attribute them to inter-ethnic strife, disease and famine during World War I.

Armenia has congratulated France over its “natural response” to an “aggressive” policy of “denial” by the Turkish government. Armenians often argue that Turkey’s recognition will help prevent similar events in the future. These assertions include claims that Scheubner-Richter’s observations of the Armenian genocide had a formative influence upon Hitler’s plans for the Jews.

The French bill provides for a 1-year prison sentence and a 45,000 fine, the same as for Holocaust denial. It must still be approved by the Senate and the President, and due to the parliamentary calendar, news sources think it is unlikely that it will be discussed before the end of the legislation period in February 2007.

Sources

External links

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has more about this subject:
Armenian Genocide


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March 20, 2006

French National assembly to approve copyright bill

French National assembly to approve copyright bill

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Monday, March 20, 2006

The French National Assembly is to adopt a bill, known as DADVSI (« Droits d’Auteurs et Droits Voisins de la Société de l’Information », “author’s right and related rights in the information society”), tomorrow. This bill reforms the French code of intellectual property (CPI) and other laws, mostly in order to implement the 2001 European directive on copyright.

The directive mandates legal protections of Digital rights management (DRM) measures against circumvention. DRMs are “digital locks” that prevent users from freely copying or playing contents, in order to enforce the copyright of the authors, artists, publishers and producers. The initial draft of the bill, proposed by Minister of Culture Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, made circumvention of DRMs, or even facilitation thereof, a felony (délit), with a maximal penalty of 3 years in prison and/or a 300,000 fine as with counterfeiting. Since DRMs, circumvention and facilitations were not legally defined, it was feared that the law would effectively prevent competitors from creating players, especially based on free software, compatible with major systems such as Apple‘s iPod or Microsoft‘s Windows Media Player — or even to prevent the creation of any free software capable of loading files with DRM capabilities, that is, potentially most future text, audio or video file formats.

The initial draft also conserved the threat of a counterfeiting felony conviction for those exchanging copyrighted files on the Internet. This was judged to be unfairly repressive and unrealistic. In France, it is commonplace for Internet users to have broadband up to 16 megabits per second in cheaply priced (€30 a month or lower) ADSL packages, often comprising VoIP phone and television ; millions of users, especially the young, are believed to use peer-to-peer file sharing software. Lawmakers, from both the majority UMP party and the opposition, found it unwise to turn millions of citizens into potential felons. As a consequence, the Minister proposed a “gradual” scheme where mere downloading of one file would be punishable by a €38 fine, which was adopted as an amendment. It remains to be seen how the law will be enforced.

With respects to DRMs, lawmakers from both the majority UMP party, the centrist Union for French democracy and the opposition adopted amendments that make it compulsory for publishers of DRM-encumbered content to give the specifications to whomever would like to implement a compatible player. This proposal was decried by some US news sources as targeting Apple Computer’s iTunes system, tied to the iPod players. It is yet unknown, though, if these amendments would apply to companies that choose not to claim the new special protection awarded to DRMs by the law, which enable them to sue those who implement software meant to circumvent their protections.

Lawmakers also expressed concerns that the proposed law would weaken existing legal exceptions to copyright, especially the right for users to make copies of copyrighted files for private use (CPI L122-5).

The lawmaking process was quite a bumpy one. In December, lawmakers adopted a surprise amendment that would legalize peer-to-peer sharing as “private copy”, much to the dismay of the Minister of Culture. The amendment, proposed by a bipartisan coalition of majority UMP and opposition lawmakers, was the first in a series that would have established a system known as the “global license” through which Internet users would have paid a flat fee in exchange for an authorization to use peer-to-peer services. The fees collected would be redistributed to authors and performers. In March, the Minister tried to withdraw article 1 of the law, which was the one that was amended to his dislike, but the next day he had to reintroduce it because withdrawing it may have been unconstitutional. The Assembly then voted the article down and adopted an Article 1 “bis”, essentially an amended version of article 1 without the legalization of peer-to-peer sharing.

The law, initially presented as an uncontroversial, technical text, soon became a hot topic. Some lawmakers, both from the opposition and the majority, decried intense lobbying by the entertainment industry. Some amendments were nicknamed the “Vivendi Universal amendment”, from the name of a major entertainment company that some lawmakers and commentators claim has inspired them. UMP lawmakers such as Bernard Carayon denounced pressures and even blackmail from some powerful lobbies.

The Assembly will very probably adopt the bill on March 21, despite the opposition of some UMP, UDF and opposition lawmakers. The bill will then be sent to the French Senate for further amendment and approval. Since the government declared the bill to be urgent, it is probably that after examination by the Senate, the bill will be sent to a mixed Assembly/Senate commission for harmonization, then finally voted. Given that some UMP and opposition lawmakers have voiced concerns about the constitutionality of some episodes of the lawmaking process, it is likely that the bill will get sent to the Constitutional Council for constitutional review. Finally, president Jacques Chirac is likely to sign it into law.

References

Wikinews
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November 17, 2005

French parliament extends state of emergency to three months

French parliament extends state of emergency to three months

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

The French Parliament passed a law extending the state of emergency decreed on November 8 by president Jacques Chirac for a duration of 3 months, the executive being authorized to terminate this period earlier if necessary. The November 8 decision, based on a 1955 statute, could last for a maximum of 12 days only, after which Parliament had to vote on an extension.

The state of emergency allows local authorities (prefects) to prohibit public meetings and regulate movements of persons, including curfews. In addition, in certain zones specified by the executive, where riots have recently taken place, local authorities may close meeting halls or bars; detain firearms; and authorize searches inside habitations during the day or the night by administrative order (normally, searches during formal criminal investigations have to be authorized by a judge). The government said that it will not use the power to regulate the media, and that searches will be subject to supervision by the judiciary.

The law was defended by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, in charge of law enforcement. Sarkozy spoke before the French National Assembly (which approved the text on November 15) and the French Senate (which approved it on November 16); he defended the actions of the government and explained why, in his opinion, the law had to be voted. Sarkozy is also the head of the UMP party, which holds a majority in both houses, and there was no doubt that the text would be approved.

Sarkozy added that in the forthcoming months, CRS (riot division of the Police) and Gendarmerie mobile forces would operate daily in difficult suburbs as a “proximity police”. He contended that the “proximity police” established by preceding left-wing government was too much concerned with social activities and not enough about arresting criminals. Sarkozy has also contended that some of the riots were orchestrated by drug traffickers, gangsters and other criminals in order to secure lawless zones.

The French Socialist Party opposed the law, claiming it was excessive. Some left-wing members of parliament contended that using a law passed in 1955 to help quashing Algerian independence movements against children of Algerian immigrants was somewhat insensitive and unsuccessfully proposed an amendment to repeal the 1955 law. On the other hand, right-wing anti-immigrant politician Philippe de Villiers has contended that the government was far too soft and called for the use of military force. Jean-Marie Le Pen, a longtime opponent of immigration from poor, Muslim countries, pointed out that the events vindicated what he had long said.

Members of Sarkozy’s UMP party blamed the de facto polygamy of some African immigrants for the failure of their families to raise and educate children properly. They suggested a more restrictive approach to immigration.

Nicolas Sarkozy is a probable contender for the 2007 presidential election. According to polls, his approval rate jumped by +11 to 63% during the events; he leads the approval opinions for presidential candidates.

Related news

Sources (in French)

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October 6, 2005

French parliamentarian questions Jacques Chirac\’s Elysée budget

French parliamentarian questions Jacques Chirac’s Elysée budget

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Thursday, October 6, 2005

A member of the French National Assembly, René Dosière, denounces the “opacity” in the budget of the Élysée Palace, the office of the President of the French Republic.

According to him, the president’s real budget is approximately three times the budget given for his services in the yearly national budget voted by the French Parliament, because many employees and services are provided by other ministries and public services free of charge to the presidency, and thus are counted in other budgets. As an example, the French Ministry of Defense provides republican guards and other soldiers, as well as aerial transportation; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs funds official foreign trips; and repairs, furnitures etc. to presidential offices are funded by the Ministry of Culture. Mr Dosière reports that in 2003, the total spending was 82.6 million Euros, while the official budget of the presidency was 30.5 million.

Mr Dosière started inquiring about presidential expenses about four years ago, and since then has been a critic of the opacity of accounting at the presidency. In order to obtain the necessary information, he has had to ask numerous questions to the executive and administrations.

In addition, he points out that the official budget of the presidency has boomed under Jacques Chirac’s term: between 1995 and 2005, it climbed from 5,21 millions to 26,14 millions. In 1995, the president also had at his disposal some “secret funds”, the total amount of which was voted by parliament, but which could be spent at his discretion. “Secret funds” were originally meant to fund specific missions that could not be funded within the exacting rules of public accounting, such as secret operations abroad, but they gradually also came to serve to pay various gratifications to government officials. Since 2002, secret funds have been cut and are reserved for paying for secret operations, while services that used them for normal operations were given special compensation. In 2005, the special compensation for the presidency was 5.5 million Euros.

In 2001, the French Parliament voted a law known as the LOLF (Loi d’orientation relative aux lois de finances) reforming the budget system, with a timetable for gradual implementation. This law mandates that any public spending should be traced to an identifiable “mission” of government.

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