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Demonstrators gather in Paris to decry French bill on curbing police images

Several thousand people marched in French cities Saturday to protest a draft law that would place limits on the filming of on-duty police officers, a move condemned as a curb on press freedom.

Demonstrators gather in Paris to decry French bill on curbing police images
Protesters in central Paris march against the bill. Photo: AFP

The biggest gathering was near the Eiffel Tower in Paris and was closely watched by a large deployment of police.

In addition to representatives of the media, others included members of the “Yellow Vest” and “Extinction Rebellion” movements, along with individuals waving flags of the communist and green parties, and the FO trade union.

A banner deployed by the news agency Mediapart declared that “Democracy dies in obscurity”.

Late Friday, parliament approved an amended “comprehensive security” law which would criminalise the publication of images of on duty police officers with the intent of harming their “physical or psychological integrity”.

In practice, the law would restrict the publication of photos or videos taken of police officers' faces while in action.

In many cases an officer's face would have to be blurred.

Journalist unions say it could give police a green light to prevent them from doing their work and potentially documenting abuses by security forces.

An amendment clarifies that press freedom should in no way be hindered by the proposed measures.

French media are also concerned about potential rights abuse via the use of drones to watch demonstrations and facial recognition programmes linked to surveillance cameras.

French police have been taken to task in recent years for alleged brutality meted out to protesters and criminal suspects, especially those from black, Arab or other minorities.

In the northern city of Lille, around 1,000 demonstrators turned out, one of whom carried an English-language sign that said “Orwell was right” in a reference to the dystopian novel “1984”.

Others marched in the Brittany city of Rennes and in Montpellier on the Mediterranean coast, where some chanted: “Put down your arms and we'll put down our telephones.”

Article 24 of the draft law foresees a one-year prison term and a 45,000-euro fine for spreading images that show officers faces or allow them to be identified when such images harm their “physical or psychological integrity”.

Social media campaigns that expose individual officers are targets of the proposed legislation.

Police say they risk great personal threat in the line of duty, and dozens have been injured in clashes with protesters in recent years.

An attack on a police station outside Paris last month by dozens of people armed with fireworks and steel bars spurred the government into taking measures.

 

Member comments

  1. I can think of no more certain way for the French Government to anger freedom-loving Americans against spending tourist dollars in France. Make no mistake: Online campaigns to inform would-be visitors to France that they are supporting suppression of free speech and freedom of the press are going to explode in the faces of French legislators who are knowingly empowering police brutality. There will be a price to pay in hard cash!

  2. And who decides what photo-adjacent comments are “intended to harm…the physical or psychological integrity” of the police? This right-wing 38-year-old Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin? And what the hell is “psychological integrity”? What does that even MEAN?? The Académie Française should convene to spell that out, and I would like to film them tripping over THEIR psychological integrity!! What a farce this is going to be except for the French citizens who are clubbed, beaten, kicked and arrested for speaking truth to power.

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READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

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