French PM to ask constitutional court to examine controversial security bill

French PM to ask constitutional court to examine controversial security bill
French Prime Minister Jean Castex. Photo: AFP
French Prime Minister Jean Castex has declared that he will ask the courts to examine the constitutionality of a controversial security bill, which could criminalise publishing images of police.
“I am announcing to you that I myself will refer to the Conseil constitutionnel article 24 [of the security bill] at the end of the legislative process,” Castex told parliament on Tuesday.
French MPs were set to vote on the final draft of a security bill that has caused uproar both inside France and internationally for its clause restricting publishing images of police officers.
Article 24 of the bill states that publishing images that identify police would be illegal if there is intent to harm the “physical or mental integrity” of the officer. It would be punished by up to one year in jail and a €45,000 fine.
'Publication' covers both publication by journalists or by members of the public on social media.
Campaigners have complained that this vague definition is open to abuse by police to prevent people from filming.

“This text is an excellent text,” the prime minister told parliament. 

FULL BACKGROUND: France debates bill to restrict photos and videos that identify police officers

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But he added that he wanted to eradicate “any doubts about our firm intention to ensure the protection of our law enforcement officers while fully respecting democratic freedoms and the rule of law.”
The debate was thrown into sharp focus on Tuesday after videos surfaced overnight of police brutally tearing down a migrant camp in the heart of Paris.
One French journalist reported that he was attacked three times by the same police officer despite showing his press badge.
Article 24 of the text would criminalise disseminating images of police officers if there is “intent to harm,” a wording Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International and France's human right's defender have said could have detrimental impact on press freedom in France.

Castex has already added an amendment to the original text of the bill, adding a clause to “guarantee press freedom” and specifying “manifest intent to harm”.

Castex said: “It's not a question of preventing anyone from broadcasting or filming images that are of a public nature. This is a matter of intent.”
The bill will next pass to the Senate, where it is due for debate in January, before going before the Constitutional Court, France's highest authority which rules on whether laws and rules comply with the French constitution. 



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