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Precautions relating to the audio-visual cover of terrorist acts

Publication date: Tuesday, October 25, 2016


France is touched by a wave of terrorist attacks of a great width which is the object of an extremely important media coverage. If the treatment of such events, including on the French territory, is not new for the media, it intervenes however in a context marked by the multiplication of the channels and the information sources and by the role growing of the social networks.  

With regard to the audio-visual mediums, the article 1st of the law of September 30th, 1986 relating to the freedom of communication provides that “ the communication with the public by electronic way is free. The exercise of this freedom can be limited only in required measurement, on the one hand, by the respect of the human dignity, (…) and, in addition, (…) by the safeguard of the public order (…) “. The clarification of these general rules for their application to the treatment of terrorist acts was the object of a recommendation of the Council dated November 20th, 2013, which appears as an annexe. 

Beyond the imperative rules, the recent attacks caused new interrogations on the practices of the audio-visual mediums. These interrogations are all the more strong as in spite of the competition of new actors, the audio-visual mediums remain the central actors of the information of the public at the time of such tragic events and play a fundamental role in the representations which the televiewers and listeners have of these events.  

It is in this context that the legislator, by article 20 of the law n° 2016-987 of July 21st, 2016 extending the application of the law of April 3rd, 1955 relating to the emergency and bearing state measurements of reinforcement of the fight against terrorism, supplemented article 15 of the law of September 30th, 1986 to provide that the Superior council of audio-visual “(…) work out a code of conduct relating to the audio-visual cover of terrorist acts. » 

The exchanges that the Council had with the editors of radio and television since the attacks of January 2015 revealed well that, in all the draftings, a work of analysis and reflection on their practices was undertaken, which underlines their spirit of responsibility. 

The object of this document is to draw up a progress achieved raised by the cover of terrorist events which cannot be dealt by imperative rules and with general range in comparison with the diversity of the situations met, and to propose a set of precautions to be taken to answer it.

This document was elaborate after several meetings with the representatives of the audio-visual mediums and the journalists like with experts, professional organizations, representatives of the victims and the Public prosecutor of Paris. He takes into account the reflections in progress and the best practices of use within the draftings of the services of audio-visual mediums. 

These recommendations were conceived to make it possible the media as well as possible to reconcile, in the treatment of the terrorist acts, the essential requirement of free information with other requirements of general interest: the good progress of the legal investigations and the safeguarding of the action of the security forces; the protection of the victims and their close relations and, of general manner, the respect of the principle of human dignity.

A special attention was paid to the representation of the terrorists and the sound image processing of propaganda.

The Council invites the editors to continue their reflection on their practices, while taking into account, if it is not already the case, the recommendations of this document. Those have authority to be adapted to their specificities, in particular when they ensure a service of information uninterrupted or proceed to special editions. The Council also invites the editors to take the same precautions whatever their channels of dissemination of information, in particular their websites. 

 

1. General precautions.

 

Reliable internal procedures are necessary to the security of delivered information. They are all the more important when they are live diffusions. Their definition and their implementation concern the specific organization to each drafting. 

The Council considers however that it is convenient, when such events occur, that each one of them mobilizes a crisis cell placed under the responsibility of professionals experienced on the matter and founds a process of control and internal validation reinforced, operational before very taken antenna, when such events occur. 

He also considers that the editors must wonder about opportunity of setting up a procedure allowing a diffusion in recorded moments before in order to guarantee the effectiveness of this process of control and validation. 

 

2. Precautions necessary with respect to the legal investigations and to the action of the security forces. 

 

The Council points out that the article 1st law of September 30th, 1986 provides that the freedom of communication can be limited by the requirements related to the safeguard of the public order: it concerns the responsibility for the editors not to diffuse images or sounds which could, within the framework of a terrorist attack, to conflict breach of security of the people.  

Within this framework, a certain number of practices call a particular vigilance. 

Initially, it is advisable to act with the greatest understanding in the research task of information in order to avoid obstructing, in particular on the spot of intervention, the security forces. 

For this reason, when operations are in hand, the editors must abstain from very making of contact with the terrorists or the hostages with the glance, on the one hand, of the risk of instrumentalisation which it comprises and, on the other hand, of the dramatic consequences which could result from this as regards the security from the people and unfolding from the investigation. With regard to the making of contact with the victims, the witnesses or their close relations, it is advisable to show a particular vigilance, in order not to endanger the security of the people. 

In the event of direct making of contact on the initiative of the terrorists, it is essential that the public authorities are immediately informed and according to the procedures which they will have defined.

In the second place, information likely to be revealed by the audio-visual mediums, in particular the elements of identification of the terrorists or relative to their procedure, should not disturb the work of the security forces and the legal authority. They should not in particular help involuntarily of the delinquent or criminal behaviors. 

In all the cases, it is necessary to maintain the contacts followed with the competent jurisdictions, which can inform the draftings on the exactitude of information, even, in certain cases, opportunity of differing the diffusion from it.

 

3. Precautions to be taken with respect to the presentation of the terrorists and the image processing of propaganda. 

 

The treatment of the terrorist acts can even lead to phenomena of development, of glorification likely to cause mimetic behaviors; this is why it is essential that the editors continue a particular reflection on the treatment of the related information to the identity of the terrorists. 

The anonymiser appropriateness the authors of terrorist acts concerns the leading freedom of the diffusers. The elements collected by the Council at the time of the dialogue which it carried out showed indeed that there does not exist satisfactory single answer to the question of knowing if it is or not advisable to diffuse their identity or their image. 

It is allocated to the editors to formulate their appreciation on a case-by-case basis, by taking of account the circumstances and the terms of dissemination, in particular of multidiffusion.

It is also advisable to show a particular vigilance in the treatment of the subjects relating to the personality or the course of the authors of these acts, while taking care not to present them under an aspect which could be perceived like positive or which would be likely to run up against the victims, their close relations or the public.

The diffusion of elements of propaganda (images, sounds or terms employed) at ends of information also concerns the freedom of the editors. The Council recommends however, as much as possible, to avoid their setting with the antenna and, in the event of diffusion, to show the more greatest caution, in particular by accompanying them by the adapted leading elements and the precise details as for their origin.

 

4. Precautions to be taken with respect to the victims. 

 

The Council points out that the articles 1st and 15 of the law of September 30th, 1986 provide that the freedom of communication can be limited in particular by the requirements related to the respect of the human dignity. The recommendation of November 20th, 2013 states rules to be followed in order not to diffuse images being able to attack the dignity of the victims, the hostages or their close relations. 

Beyond, it is advisable to take into account, in the collection of testimonies of the victims or the direct witnesses, the state of vulnerability in which they can be. The editors must keep in mind that certain people who agree to testify can be in state of shock and really not be able to grant in an enlightened way collecting of their image or their matter. 

Moreover, a particular vigilance is of setting as regards acquisition with title paying of documents amateurs, carried out at the time of terrorist attacks. The Council recommends to resort to it only in an exceptional way, in order to avoid encouraging certain people to collect sounds and images at the time of dramatic events, with a view to only being able to mint them, without taking into account the effect of such practices on the victims.  

 

5. Precautions to take to reinforce the reliability of the disseminated information. 

 

The Council recalls that most conventions of the private editors, the specifications of the editors of the public sector as well as the recommendation of November 20th, 2013 contain obligations relating to the rigour in the presentation and the information processing.

Particularly within the framework of the treatment of an attack proceeding on the national territory, the Council invites the editors to show reinforced precautions, so, in particular, not contributing to feed from the movements of panic or to accentuate the anxiety-provoking character of a situation. 

It appears thus essential to show the more greatest caution as regards the diffusion of information not confirmed and likely to feed the tension and the panic which can seize the people present on the spot of the events and more generally of the public. Indeed, precautions such as the use of conditional are not always enough so that the public is aware of the dubious character of information. In any situation, the origin of information must be specified and the errors which can be made must be rectified as soon as possible and in a repeated way. 

A particular vigilance must be carried to the diffusion of testimonies collected on the sharp one, in the absence of information clear and confirmed on the course of the events. It is also advisable to wonder about the really informative dimension of some of testimonies. Indeed, taking into account the context, the witnesses can, even involuntarily, to amplify the facts or to relay rumours. 

The editors should also show a particular prudence when they decide to resort to the diffusion of images or sounds coming from recordings amateurs, on the one hand by reinforcing the processes of checking, on the other hand by contextualizing them. 

Acting, finally, of the choice and the presentation of the experts, those raise of the leading freedom of the media. However, certain speakers expressing themselves with the antenna under expert are invited in order to light and to comment on this kind of events without the public being always clearly informed of their quality and their course. Consequently, the Council suggests taking care by any means to introduce in a systematic and regular way the experts and their trajectory personal, likely to influence their analysis.

This document will be published in the Journal officiel de la République française.

 

Fact in Paris, on October 20th, 2016.

For the Superior council of the audio-visual one:

The president

O. SCHRAMECK 

 

 

APPENDIX 1: TEXTS APPLICABLE TO THE AUDIO-VISUAL COVER OF TERRORIST ACTS

The article 1st of the law of September 30th, 1986 relating to the freedom of communication lays out: “ The communication with the public by electronic way is free. The exercise of this freedom can be limited only in required measurement, on the one hand, by the respect of, freedom and property of others, the pluralist character human dignity of the expression of the currents of thought and opinion and, on the other hand, by child protection and of adolescence, by the safeguard of the public order, the needs for national defense, the requirements of public service, the technical constraints inherent in the means of communication, like by the need, for the audio-visual services, to develop the audiovisual production. (…) »

Article 3-1 of this same law lays out: “ The Superior council of audio-visual, independent public authority equipped with the legal entity, guarantees the exercise of the freedom of audio-visual communication by very proceeded of electronic communication, under the conditions defined by the present law. (…) »

Article 15 of this law lays out: “ The Superior council of audio-visual takes care of child protection and of the adolescence and of the respect of the dignity of the person in the programs placed at the disposal of the public by a department of communication audio-visual. (…) It works out a code of conduct relating to the audio-visual cover of terrorist acts. »

The Council moreover adopted the following recommendation: 

Recommendation n° 2013-04 of November 20th, 2013 relating to the treatment of the international conflicts, the civil wars and the terrorist acts by the departments of communication audio-visual

« The Council recommends to the editors, for each emission which treats these facts of taking care of the respect of the following principles: 

1. Human dignity

• While abstaining from presenting in an obviously obliging way violence or the human suffering when images of killed or wounded people are diffused and reactions of their close relations;

• By preserving the dignity of the people taken hostage, in particular when their image or any other element making it possible to identify them is used by the kidnappers;

• By scrupulously respecting the stipulations of Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols relating to the protection of the prisoners of war and civil people in time of war.

 

2. Public order and honesty of information

• While treating with essential weighting and the rigour international conflicts likely to feed from the tensions and antagonisms within the population or to involve, towards certain communities or certain countries, of the attitudes of rejection or xenophobia;

• By checking the exactitude of the disseminated information or, in the event of uncertainty, by matching them of reserves, by presenting them to conditional and by quoting the source and the date, subject to the protection of the sources in particular guaranteed by the law n°2010-1 of January 4th, 2010 relating to the protection of the secrecy of the sources of the journalists;

• While proceeding in the event of diffusion of inaccurate information, with their correction as soon as possible and under comparable conditions of exposure;

• By accompanying the diffusion by stock-shot of one mention to the antenna to announce this origin.

 

3. Protection of the people

• By taking care that the diffusion of sounds and/or not easily bearable images is systematically preceded by an explicit warning to the public intended to protect the most vulnerable people from their possible impact;

• While taking care, with a constant vigilance, with the compliance with the rules enacted by the recommendation of June 7th, 2005 to the editors of television services relating to the descriptive youth and the classification of the programs and to that of the deliberation of December 20th, 2011 relating to the protection of the young public, the deontology and the accessibility of the programs on the services of audio-visual mediums to the request. »

 

 APPENDIX 2: ELEMENTS RELATING TO the DIALOGUE HAVING PRECEDED the DEVELOPMENT BY THIS Document

September 13th, 2016: First meeting with the editors of television and radio

Were present:

  • Arte, 
  • Channel +, 
  • Euronews, 
  • France Media World, 
  • France Televisions, 
  • Lagardere, 
  • LCP-AN, 
  • Metropolis Television, 
  • NextRadioTV, 
  • Public Senate, 
  • Radio France, 
  • RTL, 
  • the interprofessional Trade union of the radios and independent televisions (SIRTI),
  • TF1.

 

September 23rd, 2016: Réunion with experts 

Were present:

  • Mr. Jean-Charles BRISARD, president of the Center of analysis of terrorism;
  • Mr. Pierre CONESA, university lecturer with the IEP of Paris; 
  • Mr. François JOST, professor of the universities, director of the laboratory Communication and media;
  • Mr. Pierre LEFÉBURE, university lecturer at the University Paris 13 – LCP-IRISSO;  
  • Mr. Gérôme TRICK, sociologist.

 

September 29th, 2016: Réunion with representatives of journalists as well as qualified personalities

Were present:

  • Mr. Jean-Luc BARDET, editor-in-chief France of the Agency France Presse (AFP);
  • Mr. Paul COPPIN, legal person in charge of Reporters without borders;
  • Mr. Olivier DA LAGE, member of the national office of the National union of journalists (SNJ);
  • Mr. Stéphane DELFOUR, video person in charge France of AFP;
  • Mr. Patrick EVENO, President of the Observatory of the deontology of information;
  • Mme Dominique PRADALIE, general secretary of the SNJ.

 

October 3rd, 2016: Second meeting with the editors of television and radio

Were present:

  • Arte, 
  • Channel +, 
  • Euronews, 
  • France Media World, 
  • France Televisions, 
  • Lagardere, 
  • LCP-AN, 
  • Metropolis Television, 
  • NextRadioTV, 
  • Public Senate, 
  • Radio France, 
  • RTL, 
  • the SIRTI,
  • TF1.

 

October 12th, 2016: Hearing in plenary college of the representatives of the National institute of help for victims and mediation (INAVEM):

  • Mr. Jérôme BERTIN, chief executive officer by substitution of the INAVEM;
  • Mme Olivia MONS, person in charge of the communication of the INAVEM.

 

October 12th, 2016: Hearing in plenary college of:

  • Mr. François MOLINS, Public prosecutor of Paris;
  • Mme Agnes THIBAULT-LECUIVRE, Vice-procureure of the Republic.

 

October 17th, 2016: Third meeting with the representatives of the editors of television and radio 

Were present:

  • Arte, 
  • Channel +, 
  • Euronews, 
  • France Media World, 
  • France Televisions, 
  • Lagardere, 
  • LCP-AN, 
  • Metropolis Television, 
  • NextRadioTV, 
  • Public Senate, 
  • Radio France, 
  • RTL, 
  • the SIRTI,
  • TF1. 

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