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Image of Paris attacks victim lands photographer in court

AFP archive | The scene outside the Bataclan concert hall after the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris

A Paris-based photographer is facing prosecution after she took and sold a picture of a fatally wounded man outside the Bataclan concert hall in the immediate aftermath of the November 13 Paris attacks.

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Maya Vidon-White, who has been a professional photographer for two decades, was one of the first journalists to arrive at the scene of the attack.

She took a picture of a young man, identified only as Cédric G., as he was being treated for gunshot wounds on the pavement outside the Bataclan concert hall, where gunmen had killed 90 people and injured hundreds more.

Vidon-White was working for US news agency United Press International (UPI) when she took and filed the picture, which clearly showed the victim’s face and the extent of his injuries.

The photo was then sold to a French agency and was eventually published by VSD magazine, which captioned the picture of Cédric and identified him as a survivor of the attack. In fact, Cédric died of his wounds by the time the picture was published, VSD later learned.

Earlier this year Vidon-White was told that Cédric G.’s family was seeking criminal charges and a claim for damages under the so-called Guigou law, which prohibits the publication of images showing injured victims on the grounds that such images violate their right to "human dignity".

The Guigou law was passed in 2000 in the aftermath of terrorist bombings in the French capital in 1995 and 1996, as well as the death of Princess Diana in a Paris car accident in 1997, a tragedy that was compounded by paparazzi who were desperate to get a picture of the fatally injured princess.

Vidon-White’s lawyer, Vincent Tolédano, told a French court on Friday that his client regretted the distress she had caused to Cédric G.’s family, which is seeking €9,000 in damages.

But Tolédano contested the application of the Guigou law, which prohibits the “publication or reproduction of circumstances of a crime where that publication seriously harms the human dignity of the victim and is published without the victim’s consent”, and can lead to a fine of up to €15,000.

Tolédano maintains that the law only applies to victims if they are still alive, and asked for the criminal charges to be thrown out because Cédric G. died soon after the picture was taken.

Judges will study the case and will announce on May 20 whether a criminal case against Vidon-White and VSD magazine can go ahead.

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