The security bill currently being debated by the French parliament would – among other things – make it an offence to publish photos or films of police officers if it was found there was intent on the part on the part of the publisher to harm the physical or mental integrity of the officer.
From last night's protest in Paris against a “global security law” proposal that would criminalise disseminating images of police if there is “intent to harm”. The journalist shouts “we are press, we are press” to ward off the officers. #LoiSécuritéGlobale https://t.co/ikSmkVgVEF
— Ingri Bergo (@ingribergo) November 18, 2020
Those disseminating the videos, whether on social media or via news sites, would risk one year in prison and a €45,000 fine.
— Thibault Izoret (@TIM_7375) November 17, 2020
Opponents of the law, including Amnesty and Reporters Without Borders, argue that “intent” is vague and hard to prove, and the law would be open to abuse from police.
Disturbances in Paris tonight over a new “Global Security” bill aimed at criminalising those who publish images of police. Note how the officers using chemical weapons on civilians – as they do regularly – are all concealing their faces. https://t.co/NvTORG50yr
— Peter Allen (@peterallenparis) November 17, 2020
Thousands of people around France took to the streets on Tuesday night in protest, and violent clashes broke out in Paris.
“A docile society with no images” says the front page of this paper, with behind it a banner saying “Police kill.” Protest at French parliament against planned law to ban filming police. Yellow vests join journos. pic.twitter.com/tGdQXrvfNc
— Rory Mulholland (@mulhollandrory) November 17, 2020
After a protest outside the Assemblée nationale, police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse demonstrators, some of whom had set fire to street furniture.
There were also protests around France.
- In Rennes 300-400 people gathered in the morning.
- In Lyon around 700 people took part in a protest at the local préfecture
- In Toulouse around 1,300 demonstrators – including many 'yellow vests' – were dispersed by police using tear gas
- In Bordeaux 700-800 people gathered including local councillor Antoine Boudinet, who lost a hand during a 'yellow vest' protest in 2018
- In Grenoble a torch-lit procession of around 800 people demanded a halt to the new law.
The bill has been backed by police unions and the interior minister Gérald Darmanin, but many are concerned that the restrictions would make it impossible to highlight cases of police violence – many of which have come to lights via amateur video footage.
An open letter this month signed by journalists across France, including some from Agence France-Presse, urged lawmakers to reject the new image limits, and protests have been called for outside parliament on Tuesday.
“There's reason to fear that officers who already often try to prevent filming or photographs of their interventions in public areas, including through the use of force — despite it being perfectly legal — will feel even more empowered to do so,” they wrote.
A letter from The UN Human Rights Council this month also warned French authorities the proposal “could discourage, even punish those who could supply elements of potential human rights violations by law enforcement, and provide a sort of immunity.”