French court rejects ban on magazine for Nice attack photos

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People look at flowers placed on the Promenade des Anglais at the scene of a truck attack.

People look at flowers placed on the Promenade des Anglais at the scene of a truck attack. (Photo: AP)

PARIS (AP) — A French court ruled Thursday against withdrawing the picture magazine Paris Match from newsstands for publishing gruesome photos of the attack a year ago that killed 86 people in Nice — but forbid two pictures of it from being published again, including on the internet.

The ruling came after Paris anti-terrorism prosecutor Francois Molins sought an urgent hearing a day before France celebrates Bastille Day, its national holiday. Special commemorations are planned Friday in Nice, to be attended by President Emmanuelle Macron.

Victims' organizations had denounced the photos depicting scenes — camera grabs from video surveillance film — of the carnage on a main beachside walkway on July 14, 2016, when a 19-ton truck barreled into celebrating crowds.

In its ruling, the court said that victims, dead or fleeing death, were identifiable by their clothing and the images capturing the truck as it moved down the Promenade des Anglais provided "nothing new to the public's right to legitimate information about the events," according to a portion of the decision tweeted by a lawyer for a victims group.

The decision forbid two photos from being re-published anywhere, including on the internet — with a huge hourly fine if ignored, according to lawyer for Fenvac, the leading association for victims.

"It's a very good decision," said the lawyer, Eric Morain, despite the court decision not to order the withdrawal of the Paris Match issue that went on sale Thursday from newsstands — a move that would have been extremely rare.

Morain said that was a "pragmatic" move because the popular magazine was already on sale at newsstands.

The magazine's executive director, Olivier Royant, had said he would defend "tooth and nail" what he said was "the right of citizens, first among them the victims, to know exactly what happened" on the day of the fatal attack.

He said the report, with photos, was a way for his publication "to pay homage to victims ... so that society does not forget," adding that the right of the media to inform is a foundation of democracy.

However, the head of Fenvac, Stephan Gicquel, said on BFM-TV ahead of the ruling that "we don't need these shock pictures to understand the horror of terrorism."

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