A bill on the publication of police images sparks protests across France | TBEN News

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Thousands of people took to the streets in Paris and other French cities on Saturday at the urging of civil liberties activists and journalist groups to protest a security bill they say infringes on freedom of information and media rights.

Legislation pending in the French parliament would create a new criminal offense for posting images of police officers with the intent to harm them. Violators would face a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of € 45,000 (approximately C $ 69,000).

The government said the proposal was aimed at protecting police from calls for violence online. Critics fear that, if passed, the measure would endanger journalists and other observers who take videos of officers at work, especially during violent protests.

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In Paris, several thousand demonstrators gathered on the Place du Trocadéro near the Eiffel Tower, chanting “Liberty, freedom” and “Everyone wants to film the police”.

Police used water cannons to disperse the crowds as minor scuffles erupted at the end of the protest. Paris police said 23 people were arrested and one policeman was slightly injured.

Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International France, the League for Human Rights, journalists’ unions and other groups encouraged people to participate in the protest. The crowd included many journalists and students.

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“We are not here to defend a privilege of our profession, the freedom of the press and the freedom of journalists,” said Edwy Plenel, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the investigation site Mediapart. “We are here to defend fundamental rights, the rights of all peoples.”

Some members of the anti-government movement of yellow vests also joined the demonstration.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the French Ombudsman for Human Rights have also expressed concerns that the new provision could infringe on fundamental rights.

Prime Minister’s announcement not enough, critic says

Responding to criticism, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday the measure would be amended to clarify that it “will not hinder freedom of information” and that it will only focus on images released with “clear intent” “to harm a police officer.

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Emmanuel Poupard, secretary general of the National Union of Journalists, said on Saturday that he believes the new amendment “does not change anything”.

The law on the image of the police “has only one objective: to reinforce the feeling of impunity of the police forces and to make invisible police brutality”, he declared.

French gendarmes stand in front of the Eiffel Tower to prevent protesters from approaching the monument. (Charles Platiau / Reuters)

Protesters argue that registration officers in action are essential to being able to condemn and curb the actions of violent officers. They are also concerned about how the courts would determine whether the footage was posted with intent to cause harm.

In July, three French police officers were charged with manslaughter for the death of a delivery man, Cédric Chouviat, whom passers-by filmed. Chouviat’s death had similarities to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked outrage around the world and a series of Black Lives Matter protests in France.

The bill is defended by lawmakers from President Emmanuel Macron’s party, which has a majority in the National Assembly.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the bill on Tuesday, which also includes other security measures. He will then go to the Senate.

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