Paris-based Photojournalist Maya Vidon-White on Saturday called it "good news for photojournalism." But in a New York Times article, she is quoted as saying: "I don't feel a total sense of relief." Vidon-White was facing criminal charges in France for a photo she took of a victim of the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, which was then sold to United Press International (UPI), a news agency, which in turn sold it to a French news agency. The image was ultimately published in a French magazine. The victim's family pressed charges under the nation's privacy laws, which are much stricter than U.S. laws.
According to an article in The Verge, Vidon-White took a photo of a man lying on the street outside the Bataclan concert hall, where terrorists had opened fire on November 13, killing 90 people. The man was receiving medical treatment and later died from his wounds. The above photo was also taken that night by Vidon-White, but it is not the image at the center of the legal action. Under French law, it it illegal to publish photos of terror victims in a way that "violates their human dignity" without their permission. The law specifically refers to victims who are alive. But a family member of the man pressed charges against Vidon-White and the magazine that published the photo. In the photo, the 30-year-old man is seen bloodied and wearing only his underwear. The family's lawyer said the man's face should have been blurred out so as not to identify him.
Vidon-White was facing more than $50,000 in fines, damages, and legal fees. Her attorneys had argued the charges under the so-called Guigou law did not apply, as the man died before the photo was published. A judge agreed with Vidon-White and dismissed the charges last Friday. But the war photographer is not yet out of the woods. She could still face a civil lawsuit for damages, although the family has not said if they will pursue one.
Photos used with permission of Maya Vidon-White and Eddy Hasby.