French government to rewrite controversial Article 24 of security bill

French government to rewrite controversial Article 24 of security bill
Christophe Castaner, former French interior minister and current parliamentary president of the ruling party La République en Marche, speaks to journalists on November 30th. Photo: AFP
French MPs will completely rewrite the contentious Article 24 of the security bill that restricts the publication of images of police, which caused thousands to take to the streets in protest across France this weekend.

“We propose a complete rewriting of Article 24,” said Christophe Castaner, Parliamentary President of the ruling party La République en Marche and former interior minister.

Castaner, who held a press conference on Monday afternoon after President Emmanuel Macron summoned ministers to an emergency summit, said the government had “taken note” of the public opinion’s “incomprehension” of the text in question.

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France's controversial security law proposal – which was passed in the lower house of parliament last week but still faces legislative hurdles – has caused uproar across the country and saw hundreds of thousands protesters take to the streets in several French cities on Saturday.

Article 24, the most controversial part of the text, would criminalise publishing (either by journalists or on social media) images of on-duty police, if there is manifest intent to harm their “physical or psychological integrity”.

Journalists groups and international NGOs say the vague wording of the Article is open to abuse.

“The misunderstandings raised by Article 24 require that we take the time to discuss this point again,” Castaner said, as he refuted critics' claims that the bill would limit press freedom by making it more difficult to film police.

“As legislators, we must be the guarantors of fundamental rights and freedoms, first and foremost, of course, freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” Castaner said.

“Article 24 is pursuing two objectives, one of them being to better protect police officers. . .The other objective of article 24 is to preserve press freedom, whether it concerns journalists. . . or citizens.”

But several rights organisations have called for the government to withdraw the article in question, a call that gained strength after a French media published a video of three police officers beating up a music producer in Paris last week. This came shortly after police violently cleared a migrant camp set up in protest at Place de la République, in the heart of Paris.

Macron called cabinet ministers and parliamentary leaders to a crisis meeting on Monday to rapidly produce “suggestions to re-establish confidence” between the police and the population.

The rewriting will be done by the three majority groups in the French parliament – LREM, MoDem and Agir.


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