French Prosecutors Target Journalist Over November Paris Terror Attack Coverage

Berlin—We at Associated Reporters Abroad (ARA) are outraged over French prosecutors' attempts to criminalize the conduct of our colleague, reporter and photographer, Maya Vidon-White, for doing her job covering the Paris terror attacks Nov. 13, 2015 for American news outlets USA Today and United Press International (UPI). 

French prosecutors are targeting Vidon-White under the provisions of a French law that criminalizes publishing a photo of a survivor of a terror attack. Without going into the problematic nature of that law for reasons of press freedoms, we believe that Vidon-White has broken no laws: She took a photo of a victim of the attack who later died as part of her reporting; she did not publish the photo in France; she did not sell the photo to a French outlet – she sold it as part of a series to UPI in the United States. Afterward, she had no control over its resale or its publication. 

We believe that Vidon-White has broken no laws

We believe that French prosecutors are being overzealous and trying to make an example of Vidon-White to show to the grieving public – and the family of the victim – that they are taking action regarding the terror attacks, and twisting French law to do so. 

We are calling for prosecutors to drop their case against Vidon-White and to refrain from using this law in the future to prosecute journalists doing their jobs.  

What's next: prosecuting reporters for interviewing victims ?

"We unfortunately are all too familiar with covering terror attacks and have tremendous sympathy for the victims of these murderous rampages including those who died on Nov. 13 in Paris," said Jabeen Bhatti, managing editor of ARA, who worked on the Paris coverage with Vidon-White. "But this is witch hunt by French prosecutors. What's next: prosecuting reporters for interviewing victims?

Background: 

Maya Vidon-White, a reporter, photographer and French national, was covering the Paris attacks Nov. 13, 2015 for USA Today (print), and United Press International (UPI) (photo) as a freelancer. 

On the night of Nov. 13, she took a photo of a victim of the massacre at the Bataclan concert hall at a square near the venue where emergency services set up a base: Cedric Gomet , who was attending the concert, later died of injuries sustained during the attack. 

The photo she took was one of a series sold to UPI in the United States for whom Vidon-White is officially accredited. They in turn sold it to French photo agency MAXPPP to then sold it to French magazine VSD who published it on Nov. 17. 

Two months later, she was informed by the Paris prosecutor's office she had broken the law: She was charged with being an accomplice to the publication of an image showing Cedric Gomet which seriously "violates his human dignity," according to prosecutors.

The law allegedly violated is known as the Guigou law, passed in the wake of the terror attacks on Saint Michel metro station in 1995. It forbids the publication of the image of any survivor of a terror attack on the grounds that such photos violate their right to human dignity. Only Vidon-White and VSD were charged in this case.

Vidon-White is to be tried April 15, and if convicted, subject to fine of as high as 15,000 euros ($17,000).


Contacts in the case:

  • French prosecutors' office: +33144329449 (Francois Molins)
  • Attorney representing Maya Vidon-White: Vincent Toledano +33156 810319 /+33674849079 - vincent@vtoledano.fr
  • Attorney for VSD magazine: Me Jose Michel Garcia +336032106 60 / 33144297720 


About ARA: Associated Reporters Abroad (ARA) is an American international journalism non-profit that serves media outlets around the world with reporting from the ground via a collective of 100+ freelancers. 

Contact: Jabeen Bhatti +491728122363 (cell) - jbhatti@ara-network.comwww.ara-network.com

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