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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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TRAVEL NEWS

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

Car, moped, public transport, or electric bicycle - which means of transport is the quickest way to get across Paris?

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

One intrepid reporter for French daily Le Parisien decided to find out. 

The challenge was simple. Which mode of transport would get the journalist from the heart of Fontenay-sous-Bois in the eastern suburbs to the newspaper’s office on Boulevard de Grenelle, west Paris, fastest?

Over four separate journeys, each one in the middle of rush hour, the electric bicycle was quickest and easiest. More expensive than conventional bikes, electric bikes do come with a government subsidy.

The journey was described as ‘pleasant and touristy’ on a dry but chilly morning going via dedicated cycle lanes that meant the dogged journalist avoided having to weave in and out of traffic.

It took, in total, 47 minutes from start to finish at an average speed of 19km/h, on a trip described as “comfortable” but with a caveat for bad weather. The cost was a few centimes for charging up the bike.

In comparison, a car journey between the same points took 1 hour 27 minutes – a journey not helped by a broken-down vehicle. Even accounting for that, according to the reporter’s traffic app, the journey should – going via part of the capital’s southern ringroad – have taken about 1 hr 12.

Average speed in the car was 15km/h, and it cost about €2.85 in diesel – plus parking.

A “chaotic and stressful” moped trip took 1 hour 3 minutes, and cost €1.30 in unleaded petrol.

Public transport – the RER and Metro combined via RER A to Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile then Metro line 6 to the station Bir-Hakeim – took 50 minutes door to door, including a 10-minute walk and cost €2.80. The journey was described as “tiring”.

READ ALSO 6 ways to get around Paris without the Metro

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