There’s some explosive stuff in the book about Woody Allen. Hemingway also shares an even more blatant in-kind memory involving her Star 80 director:
They [Hemingway, Bob Fosse] were drinking one night at the Beverly Hills Hotel and Fosse wanted to go upstairs: The elevator let us off at my floor. I let us into my room. And then, for the next 15 minutes, I ran rings around the couch while Bob Fosse chased me for purposes of sex. ‘I have a boyfriend,’ I said.
That didn’t dissuade him one bit… ‘Well, I’m not interested,’ I said.
This stopped him for a moment. He steadied himself on the couch and looked at me. ‘I have never not [blanked] my leading lady,’ he said.
Hemingway’s retort: ‘Meet the first.’
The book, with a title that is cleverly evocative of The Sun Also Rises, comes out April 7. Along with a companion tome aimed at younger female readers, Invisible Girl. Read the rest of Kurtz’s piece here.
[Jacket cover courtesy: Regan Arts]
We’re big fans of Bomani Jones, so it’s exciting to hear that he’s getting his own national radio show. Jones will host The Right Time with Bomani Jones weekdays at 9 pm. The program will be available via ESPN Radio.
Jones’ show will feature “provocative opinions, relevant guests and listener interaction while discussing topical issues,” according to an announcement.
Jones’ show is part of a new weekday lineup for ESPN Radio. The Sedano Show, hosted by Jorge Sedano, kicks things off at 7 pm. It is followed by The Right Time, with The Freddie Coleman Show — hosted by Freddie Coleman — wrapping things up at 11.
Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thailand’s Prime Minister, is not a fan of the country’s media. One month after proclaiming that he could shut down every outlet if he wanted to, Chan-ocha doubled down.
According to Reuters, Chan-ocha — who took office after toppling Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in a coup last year — explained to a group of reporters “You don’t have to support the government, but you should report the truth.”
When Chan-ocha was asked what he would do about those journalists who do not follow the government’s guidelines, he replied “We’ll probably just execute them.” Tough, but fair.
The New York Times recently cut 100 from its newsroom staff in an effort to reduce costs. For those above the fray — like publisher and chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. — the days aren’t so cloudy. Proving that there’s always plenty of money at the top, Sulzberger is about get paid $6.8 million for the 2014 fiscal year.
Sulzberger’s big payday — a 28 percent increase over 2013 — will set in once Times Company shareholders gather on May 6 for an annual meeting.
WWD reports that Sulzberger is due a base salary of $1.1 million, $2 million in stock, $2.3 million in non-equity pay, $1.3 million in pension, and $186,405 in “other compensation.” Man, what we wouldn’t give to have a section on our paychecks for “other compensation.”
If you think about journalism as a particular culture, it is only logical to study it like other cultures—by going out into the field and examining it at close range. That is why a new generation of journalism researchers has rediscovered ethnography, a tried and true technique from the arsenal of anthropologists. Far from being a detached observer, an ethnographer immerses himself in a particular culture or subculture and keenly observes its everyday practices. In the same manner, scholars are spending weeks or months in newsrooms, describing and analysing the changing nature of journalism.
These researchers are explorers in a foreign land, chroniclers of rites and rituals, investigators of old practices and new patterns. They have left the safety of their academic surroundings and dived right into a culture that is changing hard and fast. Sometimes they are greeted with open arms, sometimes with suspicion, but they blend in and hang out. Once they come back from the field to report their findings, they tell tales from the trenches, stories about defeat and loss but also of hope and innovation.
“During the last ten years we have definitely seen a new wave of ethnographies that helped to better understand the news production routines of online and convergent newsrooms,” said David Domingo, who co-edited the book Making Online News – Volume 2: Newsroom Ethnographies in the Second Decade of Internet Journalism. “There was this intuition that new ways of producing news were not as innovative as we were expecting. Ethnography helped explain how innovation has been managed, dealt with, or resisted.”
Recent books show the spectrum of this approach in journalism studies. For Can Journalism Survive? An Inside Look at American newsrooms, David Ryfe spent time in various regional news outlets. Nikki Usher presents a look behind the scenes of the New York Times in Making News at the New York Times and Chris Anderson examined the changing nature of metropolitan journalism by looking at various news providers in Philadelphia.
However, new interest in ethnographic research is not limited to books nor solely an American context. Recent articles in journals such as Journalism Practice, the International Communication Gazette, Journalism Studies, and Journalism also showcase ethnographic studies of newsrooms.
Academics are facing more challenges in gaining access to newsrooms
Hanging out in the newsroom and observing people, practices and the production of news is not a new phenomenon but it had become unfashionable until recently. First examples of newsroom ethnography date back to the 1950s. Yet, it was not until the 1970s and early 1980s that scholars actually spent a considerable amount of time in a newsroom for their research. After a dry spell in the following two decades, we are now seeing a “second golden age of newsroom ethnography” according to Chris Anderson. However it is becoming more difficult for researchers to gain access to news organisations, as they are more commercially sensitive than just a few years ago. “Everyone is trying to find the magic bullet—whether it’s an app, a way of counting metrics, native advertising. They all worry that if they find the secret sauce, they want to keep it a secret. They don’t want people to see how they’re doing innovation,” Anderson said.
David Domingo points to other challenges when building journalism research on actual observations. The digital environment makes it hard for the researcher to track interactions by email and social media. Another problem, Domingo said, is that so far attention has been mostly dedicated to journalists, but not other areas like marketing or IT departments.
“You don’t want to come off like you’re the scientist and they’re the bug under a glass.”
Even when access is granted, the researcher faces potential difficulties in dealing with his object of study—the journalists. Suddenly the lens turns on them instead of the other way around. “You don’t want to come off as a nerd,” Chris Anderson said. “You don’t want to come off like you’re the scientist and they’re the bug under a glass. No one likes that.” Instead, he suggests, it’s important to cultivate a dialogue.
Both Anderson and Domingo emphasise that while newsroom ethnography yields interesting insights, the changing landscape of news production calls for a wider lens now. Anderson wrote about “blowing up the newsroom” and recommended a closer look at the news “ecosystem”—bloggers, citizen journalists, nonprofit organizations—instead. Domingo champions a similar strategy. “We can’t afford to just look at the professional newsrooms when trying to make sense of how news are made nowadays,” he says. “Of course this is a challenge because the terrain becomes boundless. But if you follow the actors, they will lead you to what’s going on.”
Ethnography often means coming up with more questions than answers
Ethnography requires access, time and tenacity. But, Chris Anderson said, it’s also a question of temperament. “If you are someone who wants to know what it the answer as cleanly as possible and this answer may positively shape the future of news then ethnography is not right for you. But if you enjoy complexity and ending up with more questions than you started with then ethnography maybe is for you.”
pic credit: Rafael Anderson Gonzales Mendoza
The cover of Go Set a Watchman, the new novel from the brilliantly concise Harper Lee, has been unveiled.
The book was penned before To Kill a Mockingbird and follows Mockingbird character Scout Finch’s journey to visit her father, Atticus Finch. It is set 20 years after the events of Mockingbird.
Now that we have all seen the cover, please feel free to overanalyze it. We know we will.
Like many journalism startups to emerge in recent years, the World Politics Review got its start because the kind of reporting its founder was interested in didn’t really exist at most traditional media outlets. “I was trying to publish op-eds in various newspapers,” Hampton Stephens told me in a phone interview. “And I was struck that there weren’t many outlets for the kind of analytical writing about international affairs I wanted to do.”
He launched the site in 2006 when he was earning a graduate degree in international affairs, and though he had no initial business model, he also wasn’t a newcomer to professional journalism; Stephens took a job out of college in the marketing department at National Journal and, after getting the reporting bug, went on to write for several publications, including a newsletter for the defense industry.
In those early days, Stephens populated the World Politics Review with his own writing and contributions from people he knew from his reporting days and grad school. By 2007, however, he had decided he wanted to turn the fledgling site into a mature business, and so began commissioning pieces for about $100 a column. “We had great success early on attracting a lot of contributors, which kind of validated my idea that there was a dearth of outlets for these people who wanted to do this kind of analytical writing.” But he was also “incredibly naive,” as he put it, because he initially thought he could achieve profitability simply by simply selling ads. This was before the Great Recession had eviscerated newspapers across the country. It was back when many news executives assumed they could eventually sell online display ads at the same rates as they had in print.
But the limitless supply of content on the Internet drove down ad rates to such an extent that only websites with massive scale were able to sustain themselves. Though the World Politics Review audience was growing, it quickly became clear that Stephens would never see the level of traffic needed to break even, much less turn a profit. He realized he would need to erect some kind of paywall — but he also knew that such a measure would inhibit his ability to market the site’s content.
So, several years before The New York Times introduced its “leaky paywall” — one since widely emulated by other news companies — Stephens began to roll out his own porous subscription service. “A lot of our traffic is coming from search engines, and we want people to get a taste of the first article,” said Stephens. “So for that first click [from Google] they get the whole article, and if they click to another article then they hit the paywall.” The same goes for any inbound referrals from Twitter or Facebook.
“We do know people who abuse that. We know there are people who are following us on Twitter on a daily basis and probably clicking through to every article we publish and reading it for free,” he said. “But basically we decided that’s the tradeoff you have to make.”
In 2009, armed with an investment from family members, Stephens hired an editor-in-chief and then stepped back to begin focusing solely on the business side of the company. Because World Politics Review was more niche in focus than, say, The New York Times, he understood that his core customer base would consist mainly of people who worked in some realm of international affairs — academics or NGOs, for example — and so there was enormous potential in selling subscriptions to large institutions that employed these kinds of professionals.
Though WPR does offer individual subscriptions, at about $60 a year, more than 60 percent of the site’s subscription revenue comes from these institutions. In late 2010, Stephens signed a partnership deal with EBSCO, an information services company that sells bundled digital subscriptions for scholarly journals and other publications to universities, companies, government agencies, and nonprofits. “They have a sales force that’s calling on [these organizations], so our partnership allows us to focus on the content while they have the sales force, and we have a joint venture where we share the revenue.”
This partnership has allowed WPR to vastly expand its subscription base (the State Department, one of its largest customers, has made the site’s content accessible to 45,000 employees), but recently Stephens has begun to focus more on diversifying the company’s subscriptions so it’s not so reliant on a single partnership for distribution. He hired a part-time salesperson to begin targeting smaller institutions that aren’t on EBSCO’s radar. “If I sent [EBSCO] a hot lead, they’ll go out and call them, but for the most part they’re pitching World Politics Review to their existing customers and they’re not going out of their way to make sales calls to sell us specifically,” he said. “That’s the nature of the agreement with them. We realized there’s this whole universe of smaller institutions that they’re not currently hitting.” WPR recently signed up several small NGOs and nonprofits (most of them with fewer than 50 employees) in both the U.S. and the U.K.
Stephens has also focused significant effort toward securing more individual subscribers; his goal is that they eventually make up at least 50 percent of his subscription base. To do this, he’s sought to understand who his core subscriber is and what kind of information she would need to do her job. “There are some hardcore news junkies whose job is completely unrelated to foreign affairs who subscribe, but those are definitely the exception,” he told me. “The way we approach producing the content is though we’re producing it for people who have a professional interest in this stuff — access is an asset for doing their jobs. Whether they’re a policy maker, a risk analyst for a multinational corporation, or they’re an academic who’s teaching students or doing original research.”
WPR, Stephens argued, fits somewhere between mainstream publications like The Economist, which are writing for a more general audience, and international affairs journals that are only published quarterly and might not run a longform article until two years after it was originally submitted. “There are mainstream readers who can get something out of what we publish,” he said. “But we’re assuming a certain amount of knowledge on the part of our readers. What we’re trying to do is combine the best aspects of those mainstream publications in terms of writing short-form stuff, but also having the depth and thoughtfulness of an academic journal, but one that’s publishing daily.”
The site has four full-time editorial employees, most of whom are based in New York (the editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, lives in Paris) and are responsible for writing one piece per week. The vast majority of their workday is spent commissioning and editing content from a network of contributors with a wide range of subject matter expertise and who live all over the world.
“We pay them per piece — they’re contractors,” said Stephens. “We don’t have long-term contracts with any of them. At any given time, there’s a stable of regular contributors — maybe 100 people who are contributing more than once a year.” Because most of them already have full-time jobs and are mainly focused on gaining access to WPR’s readers, Stephens only needs to pay a small honorarium to receive high-quality contributions. “I’d guess that if you compare our costs to other publications that aren’t just [aggregating content], they would be very favorable. We get a lot of bang for the buck in terms of the money we spend on content.”
Because WPR doesn’t have a “U.S.-centric focus” — meaning international affairs aren’t covered through the lens of how they impact the U.S. — it has strong international appeal, both among contributors and readers. “Our traffic is always a slight majority outside the United States,” said Stephens. “On any given month, it’ll be 52 percent from non-U.S. readers. Our subscribers break down probably about the same way — between 50 and 60 percent non-U.S. and between 40 and 50 percent U.S.-based.” This has, of course, allowed the company to target overseas NGOs and other institutions, vastly expanding its potential revenue base.
Though WPR is not yet profitable, Stephens said he hopes to be in the black by the end of this year. The question he finds himself contemplating now is how to expand once the site becomes self-sustaining. “Do we remain a niche publisher, or do we try to go big and add other services — maybe come out with regional sections and have more newsletters, and have an African service and an Asian service? I don’t know the answer to that. I’d be lying if I said I have a grand vision. Right now, we’re just so focused on getting to profitability, and I think at that point, the options really open up for us.”
I asked him if he’d considered a metered paywall like the one rolled out successfully by The New York Times — or perhaps a Wall Street Journal model where some of the site content is placed in front of the paywall. “We don’t publish enough content to have two separate tiers,” he replied. “We’re publishing basically 70 to 80 new original pieces a month — which is a significant amount, but it’s nowhere near the output of The New York Times or BuzzFeed. “If we did two tiers, would someone be willing to pay for — instead of 80 articles a month, would 40 be enough to justify a subscription?” Stephens didn’t think so.
A few hours after we got off the phone, Stephens emailed me with further thoughts on the future of World Politics Review. One of the benefits of relying on reader subscriptions rather than advertising is that it has allowed the publication to focus 100 percent on delivering value to the reader, and any future expansion must adhere to this core value. “The fact that they pay us for the service ensures that they are our real customers and that everything we do, from the integrity of our content to the usability of our site, is done with them in mind,” he wrote. “We could not build the kind of service we want to build if the majority of our revenue came from advertising. In this case, our real customers would be our advertisers and our readers would just be a product we are selling to advertisers.”
For those who worry about the rise of native advertising and its potential for blurring the lines between independent journalism and sponsored content, this fidelity to readers should provide some welcome optimism. The question now is whether a profitable market exists for such a stance. Stephens’s bet, to which he’s dedicated nearly a decade of his life, is that it does, and this is the year he aims to prove it.
This story originally appeared on SimonOwens.net.
Photo of globes by The Shopping Sherpa used under a Creative Commons license.
Time has made some changes to its art department’s team. Details are below.
- Carrie Gee recently joined as senior art director. She came to Time from Adweek, where she most recently served as design director.
- Jennifer Prandato also recently joined Time as a freelance iPad/iPhone/print designer. Prandato was previously an intern at The Boston Globe.
- Allison Duda has been promoted to associate art director. She has previously worked at Time Out New York and freelanced for New York and People StyleWatch. Duda has been with Time since 2012.
- Chelsea Kardokus has been promoted to assistant art director. She has previously worked at The Staten Island Advance, The Wall Street Journal and The Chicago Tribune.
I’m very happy to pass along a bit of Nieman news: The Knight Foundation has awarded a grant of $223,000 to the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard (of which this website is a part) to support the Knight Visiting Nieman Fellowships, which bring journalists, technologists, academics and other news innovators to campus to work on projects that can advance the field. Here’s a brief piece by Nieman Foundation curator Ann Marie Lipinski outlining the thinking behind the program.
RELATED ARTICLEThe next stage in the battle for our attention: Our wristsMarch 5, 2015(If you’re a regular Nieman Lab reader, you may remember Jack Riley’s piece earlier this month that looked in depth at the potential of the Apple Watch and other smartwatches for news. Jack did that research and wrote that piece during his time as a visiting fellow in February. The same is true of Amy Webb’s piece on rethinking journalism education in the new issue of Nieman Reports.)
This funding will support a minimum of five Knight Visiting Nieman Fellows a year, who will work on their projects here for terms no longer than 12 weeks. If you’ve got an idea for a project, I’d encourage you to apply — applications for the next cycle will open up this summer.
The full press release is below. Knight has also been a funder of other projects here, including Nieman Lab, which is why you see our regular disclosure noting the funding relationship whenever we write about Knight’s activities, which touch many, many corners of the journalism innovation world.
Knight Visiting Nieman Fellowships: New program at Harvard University will advance journalism innovation
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — March 25, 2015 — To help news innovators advance quality journalism by incorporating new practices and technology into their work, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced $223,000 in support to the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard for a new program, the Knight Visiting Nieman Fellowships.
The program will bring journalists, technologists, academics and other news innovators to Harvard to develop projects to advance journalism. Each year, Nieman will select a minimum of five fellows. Lessons learned from the projects, developed during short, intense stays lasting no longer than 12 weeks, will be widely shared.
The visiting fellowships were first introduced as an experiment in 2012. With Knight support they are now an integral part of the Nieman program. Visiting fellows will work with traditional Nieman Fellows, who spend a full academic year at Harvard. They also have access to the extensive intellectual resources at Harvard and MIT, and throughout Cambridge, including local scholars, research centers and libraries.
“In the short time we have been working with visiting fellows, the impact on their work and ours has been significant. Over time, we expect this program to help journalism and journalists in increasingly important ways,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation.
“Journalism is so challenged in the digital age, it will take many great minds — including creative people from other fields — to help lead quality journalism to its best possible future,” said Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president at Knight Foundation. “Congratulations to Nieman for building innovation into the nation’s oldest and most distinguished journalism program.”
Visiting fellows come from the United States and abroad to work on research, programming, design, financial strategies and other projects. Eligible candidates include journalists, publishers, programmers, designers, developers, media analysts, academics and others with an idea to enhance quality, build new tools or business models or design programs to improve journalism.
Past participants include:
— Paul Salopek, Nieman’s inaugural visiting fellow, who used his time at Harvard to plan his epic seven-year Out of Eden reporting walk around the globe to trace the path of human migration and use storytelling and technology to test a new form of “slow journalism.”
— Hong Qu, chief technology officer for Fusion, who developed his Keepr application to help journalists and other users better follow stories on Twitter and sort fact from rumor. Keepr was put to the test in April 2013 during the Boston Marathon bombings when Hong used his algorithm to identify reliable information as events unfolded.
— David Smydra from Google News, who formed a small working group with Nieman Fellows for feedback as he developed a structured data format for future news events.
— Allissa Richardson, an assistant professor of journalism at Bowie State University in Maryland, who developed a mobile journalism massive open online course (MOOC) on how to report news using only tablets, MP3 players or smartphones.
— Jack Riley, the London-based head of audience development for The Huffington Post UK, who researched the future impact of smartwatches and wearable devices on journalism.
Support for the fellowships program is part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to encourage change in journalism education and advance excellence in journalism. In addition to previous support to the Nieman Journalism Lab, Knight’s many investments include: the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education and the Knight-Vice Innovators Fund, and recent grants to Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, City University of New York, Florida International University, Stanford University and the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.
About the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard
The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard educates leaders in journalism and elevates the standards of the profession through special programs that convene scholars and experts in all fields. More than 1,400 accomplished and promising journalists from 93 countries have been awarded Nieman Fellowships since 1938. The foundation’s other initiatives include Nieman Reports, a quarterly print and online magazine that covers thought leadership in journalism; the Nieman Journalism Lab, a website that reports on the future of news, innovation and best practices; and Nieman Storyboard, a website that showcases exceptional narrative journalism and explores the future of nonfiction storytelling. Learn more at nieman.harvard.edu.
Reporters Without Borders is very disturbed by the MVS media group's decision to fire journalist Carmen Aristegui at a very sensitive moment for freedom of expression in Mexico.
It was wrongly reported that Reporters Without Borders did not think her dismissal was linked to the issue of free speech and we regret that those reports were used to minimize the impact of her firing.
The dispute between Aristegui and MVS dates back to 11 March, after she announced that MVS would participate in MexicoLeaks, a website that has leaked details about government corruption, and the MVS logo appeared on the site. MVS immediately reacted in comments to the media, saying its brand had been misused and announcing “appropriate measures.”
The next day, MVS fired Daniel Lizárra and Irving Huerta, two members of a team of journalists working under Aristegui. They were part of the team that had revealed the existence of a presidential luxury residence dubbed the “white house” last November.
Aristegui was herself fired on 15 March. Joaquín Vargas's MVS Radio said it fired her after rejecting her demand that Lizarra and Huerta be reinstated as a condition for continuing her programme.
“The irrevocable dismissal of Aristegui and her colleagues, MVS's decision to wage this dispute through the media and their rejection of any mediation are disturbing developments for freedom of expression and the right to information in an already difficult and tense climate for Mexican journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“In the light of Aristegui's investigative reporting, which has been very critical of the government, questions are inevitably being asked about the real reasons behind her dismissal.”
During an online news conference on 19 March, Aristegui said her dismissal had murky ramifications and was “clearly not an issue between individuals,” as the interior ministry had said. “The sequence of events suggests that this decision was premeditated,” she added. “MexicoLeaks and the [MVS] brand were just used as a pretext.”
In interview for the magazine Proceso on 22 March, she said she was convinced that presidential pressure was part of the background to her dismissal. She said the president's office had put pressure on MVS not to include her “white house” report in its popular Noticias MVS news programme on 9 November.
France - Human rights organisations alarmed by bill that will give surveillance agencies dangerous new powers
Privacy International, Amnesty International, FIDH, the French League for Human Rights and Reporters Without Borders are alarmed by the expansive surveillance powers to be granted to surveillance agencies contained in a Bill transferred to the French parliament on Friday.
Under the new law, French intelligence agencies would be empowered to hack into computers and devices and spy on the communications of anyone who makes contact with a person under suspicion, even incidentally. The new law will enable them to do this without having to obtain a judicial warrant.
Our organisations express their strong concern at the Bill's proposal to install surveillance technology at internet service providers and telecommunications companies to analyse all internet activity against specific algorithms set by the government. Such mass surveillance systems will undermine internet users' privacy, have the potential to chill free expression, and could be subject to serious abuse.
The Bill places unprecedented power in the hands of the Prime Minister's office, empowering it to authorise all forms of surveillance without having to seek the authorization of a court. While the law provides for the establishment of an expanded National Commission for the Control of Intelligence Techniques, the Commission's recommendations would not be binding on the Prime Minister and his or her delegates. By removing early judicial control of surveillance, the Bill not only represents a serious incursion into the privacy of ordinary people, but further increases the risk of abuse. It could also exacerbate the risks mass surveillance poses for those who work on sensitive issues and rely on confidential sources, including journalists and human rights organizations.
The foreign surveillance powers granted by the Bill are vast and echo those currently being legally challenged in the UK. They empower the French Prime Minister to order the interception of communications that are emitted or received from outside France. The technical measures that intelligence agencies can implement would be decided by the State Council in an unpublished decree, according to the draft Bill.
In addition to the proposed bulk filtering measures, the Bill grants government agencies a number of other dangerous surveillance powers:
- The ability for intelligence agents to hack into devices and computers, as a technique of last resort, is explicitly provided for in the Bill. Hacking is an extremely intrusive form of surveillance and its use by any State authorities, particularly intelligence agencies, must be highly regulated to protect against abuses of power, yet the Bill makes no provision for judicial authorisation or oversight of hacking powers.
- The Bill empowers the intelligence agencies to use “proximity sensors” in field surveillance in order to ascertain the location and identification of particular people. This provision is an attempt empower French intelligence agencies to use IMSI catchers, according to the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertes, the French data protection authority, which was able to push the government to include a number of additional protections in the Bill prior to its publication. IMSI catchers are mobile interception devices that are subject to US and European export controls, and have recently come under close scrutiny in US courts and legislatures. The Bill stipulates that IMSI catchers can be used for collecting the live geolocation information of individuals using their devices. Because IMSI catchers are not targeted devices but identify and geolocate individuals within a given locale (such as a plaza or an airport) this would inevitably facilitate the surveillance of individuals who are not suspected of any crime;
- The electronic communications of anyone incidentally connected with a person of suspicion – including through passing offline or online connections or encounters – are liable to be intercepted and examined by the intelligence agencies under new powers introduced by the Bill.
The organisations are calling on the French parliament to give the Bill robust scrutiny in the coming weeks to ensure French law complies with international human right law and standards on surveillance.
Carly Nyst, Legal Director at Privacy International, said:
The introduction of this law only two months after the Charlie Hebdo tragedy is an attempt to broaden surveillance powers under the guise of preventing terrorism. Increased security does not have to come at the price of reduced privacy. And the threat of terrorism must not be used to justify the mass monitoring of every French internet user's activity. Should all of the proposed measures pass through the parliament without strong scrutiny and examination, France will be well on its way to becoming a surveillance state, and at the same time we will not be any safer from terrorist attacks.
Joshua Franco, Researcher on Technology and Human Rights at Amnesty International, said:
France cannot let the quest for security come at the cost of respecting the human rights to free expression and privacy. These broad and invasive surveillance powers would not be subject to meaningful oversight and may lead to people censoring themselves online.
Karim Lahidji, FIDH President, said:
We are highly concerned about the lack of judicial supervision over these provisions, which gives the Government the power to authorise wide surveillance of any individual without any possibility to judicially challenge these measures. We are also concerned about the growing tendency to abuse anti-terrorism rhetoric to infringe on liberties.
Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders, said:
We demand that this law include safeguards for the right of journalists to work without being spied on, or else it will constitute a grave violation of media freedom. The government must restore protection for the confidentiality of journalists' sources by bringing reference to a judge back into the established procedures. It is vital that an exception be made for journalists in the system of surveillance envisaged in this bill.
Pierre Tartakowsky, LDH President, said:
Only an effective and proportionate control of intelligence techniques, carried out prior to the authorization of the measures, and for a purpose strictly defined and relevant to national security, will be effectively in accordance with fundamental rights.