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France to review security law with dozens of nationwide protests planned

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday that the government would review the wording of a controversial draft law that would place restrictions on citizens filming the police and publishing the images.

France to review security law with dozens of nationwide protests planned
Dozens of protests around France are planned this weekend. Photo: AFP

His announcement came as dozens of protests are planned around France this weekend to protest over Article 24 of the new global bill.

 

 

Click here for the interactive map giving details of demonstrations in your area.

In the wake of a new scandal over police brutality that has led to fresh pressure to backtrack, Castex announced that he was going to set up “an independent commission with responsibility for proposing a new wording for Article 24.”

Article 24 of the law, passed during a first reading by the lower house of parliament on Tuesday, would criminalise the publication (either by news organisations or on social media) of images of on-duty police officers if there was manifest intent to harm their “physical or psychological integrity”.

Media groups in France, including AFP, have raised alarm about the possible impact on journalists covering police operations, while other critics say the wording is intended to dissuade citizens from videoing police and holding them accountable.

CLICK HERE for interactive map

The law has led French and UN rights experts as well as the European Union to express concern about its possible impact, while thousands of protesters have already made their opposition clear in street protests.

Supporters of the law, above all Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, say it is necessary to protect the identity of law enforcement officers who are at risk of harassment, threats and violence.

Mobile phone footage of police brutality has played a key role in recent scandals in France, as well as in the global uproar over the death of George Floyd during his arrest in the United States in May.

On Thursday, video images of three police officers beating a black music producer inside his studio in Paris caused an outcry that saw politicians, footballers including Antoine Grizeman and Kylian Mbappé and millions of social media users express their disgust.

 

Mbappé tweeted the racial slur that the officers reportedly used while beating the man, adding: “Unbearable video, unacceptable violence”.

 

After clearing the lower house, the draft security law would now need to be approved by the Senate. Some experts believe it could also face censure from France constitutional court.

Member comments

  1. Maybe the government were trying to sneak this outrageous legislation in without undue alarm and despondency, but with journalists in the firing line, and with people shut up at home with nothing to do but socialise on the internet it’s asking for trouble. As it is supposedly illegal to protest under a lock down, which will be ignored, a whole can of worms will emerge. Talk about inept.

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STRIKES

French Prime Minister Macron doubles down on pension age as strikes loom

France's prime minister on Sunday ruled out backtracking on a plan to raise the retirement age as unions prepared for another day of mass protests against the contested reform.

French Prime Minister Macron doubles down on pension age as strikes loom

An increase in the minimum retirement age to 64 from the current 62 is part of a flagship reform package pushed by President Emmanuel Macron to ensure the future financing of France’s pensions system.

After union protests against the change brought out over a million people into the streets on January 19, the government signalled there was wiggle room on some measures, including the number of contributing years needed to qualify for a full pension, special deals for people who started working very young, and provisions for mothers who interrupted their careers to look after their children.

But the headline age limit of 64 was not up for discussion, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Sunday.

“This is now non-negotiable,” she told the FranceInfo broadcaster.

While unions have welcomed the government’s readiness for negotiation on parts of the plan, they say the proposed 64-year rule has to go.

Calling the reform “unfair” France’s eight major unions, in a rare show of unity, said they hoped to “mobilise even more massively” on Tuesday, their next scheduled protest day, than at the showing earlier this month.

“Even more people”

“It’s looking like there will be even more people”, said Celine Verzeletti, member of the hardleft union CGT’s confederation leadership.

Pointing to opinion polls, Laurent Berger, head of the moderate CFDT union, said that “the people disagree strongly with the project, and that view is gaining ground”.

It would be “a mistake” for the government to ignore the mobilisation, he warned.

Unions and the government both see Tuesday’s protests as a major test.

Some 200 protests are being organised countrywide, with a big march planned for Paris, culminating in a demonstration outside the National Assembly where parliamentary commissions are to start examining the draft law on Monday.

The leftwing opposition has submitted more than 7,000 amendments to the draft in a bid to slow its path through parliament.

Macron’s allies are short of an absolute majority in parliament and will need votes from conservatives to approve the pensions plan.

The government has the option of forcing the bill through without a vote under special constitutional powers, but at the risk of triggering a vote of no confidence, and possibly new parliamentary elections.

In addition to protest marches, unions have called for widespread strike action for Tuesday, with railway services and public transport expected to be heavily affected.

Stoppages are also expected in schools and administrations, with some local authorities having already announced closures of public spaces such as sports stadiums.

Some unions have called for further strike action in February, including at commercial ports, refineries and power stations.

Some observers said the unions are playing for high stakes, and any slackening of support Tuesday could be fatal for their momentum.

“They have placed the bar high,” said Dominique Andolfatto, a professor for political science. “They can’t afford any missteps.”

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