SHARE
COPY LINK

POLICE

How France plans to improve relations between police and the press

A series of issues including attacks on journalists covering protests and a highly controversial new law limiting the filming of police officers has seen France fall two places in the world press freedom index. Now a new report proposes 32 measures to improve the relationship between police and the press.

How France plans to improve relations between police and the press
Journalists record an arrest by French riot police forces during a rally as part of the 'Black Lives Matter' protests against racism and police brutality, on Place de la République in Paris on June 13th, 2020. Photo: Thomas SAMSON / AFP

What?

On Monday, May 3rd, an independent commission published a government-ordered report that said the relationship between police and journalists had “sharply deteriorated” over at last the past five years, and proposed 32 measures to amend it.

Why?

French Prime Minister Jean Castex tasked the commission with writing the report following protests over a new security bill, which French MPs voted to adopt in December 2020.

EXPLAINED: The new French law that restricts photos and videos of police officers

The bill contained several controversial clauses, including one – Article 24 – that would limit the right to film or photograph police on duty, sparking criticism from international NGOs Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International as well as France’s own human right’s defender.

The law proposal coincided with several incidents of police caught on film committing violent acts, most notably the beating of a black French music producer in Paris, reigniting concerns about police violence and racism in France.

In the end the government decided to rewrite Article 24, before handing it over to the Conseil constitutionnel (Constitutional Council), which ensures that new laws align with the French Constitution.

France fell two places in Reporters Without Borders’ 2020 World Press Freedom Index, from 32 to 34. In its newest update, the organisation said “covering protests has become problematic for reporters, who have often been subjected to police violence” such as “flash-ball rounds, teargas grenades or baton blows.”

Noting that the problem went deeper than Article 24 of the security bill, the top civil servant who oversaw the rewriting of the clause, Jean-Marie Dalure, was asked to write a report examining the relationship between police and journalists to find ways to improve it.

One French publication, Public Sénat, hailed the document and its proposals for “calling for a true paradigm change,” that might help foster “peaceful relations between law enforcement and media organisations” in France.

Demonstrators clash with riot police by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris during a y’ellow vest’ protest on December 1st 2018. (Photo: Abdulmonam EASSA / AFP)

What does the report say?

Over 116 pages, the report examines how relationships between journalists and police had “worsened over a period of “at least five years”, and what could improve them.

It highlighted the anti-labour reform protests in 2016, during the movement known as Nuit debout (Up all night), under Macron’s predecessor François Hollande’s presidency, and the ‘yellow vest’ movement in 2018-2019 as events that accelerated the decline.

The “sometimes unprecedented scenes of violence” during these protests spurred a mutual “feeling of apprehension of fear” between police and journalists, the report noted.

READ ALSO Seven times videos revealed police violence in France

Due to flare-ups in violence, fuelled by fringe rioters or violent protesters or sometimes caused by police officers, journalists faced threats “not only from demonstrators, but also members of the security forces themselves,” they wrote.

Police officers had sometimes proven willing to take aim at journalists in a way “akin to a desire for intimidation, revenge, even punitive” action, the report said.

“As a result,” it noted, “some journalists now weigh the benefits and risks of covering such events.”

A riot police officer sprays tear gas against a demonstrator during a protest against the security law in Nantes, western France, on January 16th. (Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP)

What are the solutions?

Several of the 32 proposals aimed at making it easier for journalists to cover protests.

The authors asked for a “guaranteeing of the physical safety of journalists”, permitting them to seek refuge behind police cordons, but also allowing them to use protective gear, which police would confiscate at the entry point of a protest or march.

Police had to always allow journalists to enter or exit police cordons, no matter the situation on the ground, the authors stressed. They also reminded police that filming or photographing officers in public was a right – acclaimed by both journalists and civilians – and that police were not allowed to ask someone to delete their footage.

They asked police to stop trying to separate “real” journalists from “fake” ones, but recommended considering news agencies to issue temporary press passes to journalists without a press card.

Several points aimed at improving the training of police regarding press issues, asking specifically that this training include a practical part with real-life circumstances as well as theory.

The authors also recommended that police and journalists should meet outside protest situations more often to improve the dialogue and further mutual understanding. It asked that local police should get permission to talk to journalists more, to avoid sending all communication through central communication channels.

So what happens now?

The interior ministry and culture ministry will review the report and its proposals together, the Prime Minister’s office Matignon said in a press statement.

This work “will lead to the implementation of all of these recommendations,” the statement said.

Police and journalists would also meet for discussions through the forum of a “monitoring committee”, chaired by Jean-Marie Delarue, which would then be rolled out on a local level.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

MONEY

Revealed: What will you receive from France’s €65bn cost-of-living aid package?

The French parliament has finally passed a massive €65 billion package of measures aimed at helping French residents with the spiralling cost of living. Here's a rundown of the help on offer, who it's available to and when it comes into effect.

Revealed: What will you receive from France's €65bn cost-of-living aid package?

After three weeks of sometimes heated debate, France’s parliament has adopted its multi-part purchasing power package to help mitigate rising cost of living and inflation.

In total, parliament approved a budget of nearly €65 billion for the whole package. 

It includes a raft of measures including price shields, tax rebates and grants. Here’s what is included and who will benefit.

Electricity and gas The government has voted to extend the tariff shield on gas and electricity prices until the end of the year: this means that gas prices will continue to remain frozen and that price hikes for electricity prices will be capped at four percent. 

For who: This applies to everyone who has a gas or electricity account in France.

When: The price freeze is already in effect and will continue until at least December 31st.

Fuel subsidy – The government’s fuel rebate (on petrol/gasoline and diesel) will be increased from €0.18 per litre to €0.30 in September and October, and then in November and December it will fall to €0.10. 

For who: All drivers (including tourists) – this is applied automatically at all fuel stations in France

When: The €0.18 per litre rebate is already in place and remains until August 31st, and rises to €0.30 on September 1st.

Pensions – The index point for pensions will be raised by four percent.

Who: This covers anyone who receives a French pension – roughly 14 million people – it does not affect anyone who gets a pension from another country.

When: From September 9th. 

Abolishing the TV licence fee – The annual TV licence raised €3.7 billion a year for public broadcasting, with the majority having gone toward France Télévisions, but has now been scrapped. It was €138 per household. 

For who: Any household with a television. This equates to about 23 million households in France who will no longer have to pay this yearly tax.

When: The was due to be levied on November 15th, but this year no bills will be sent out.

Tripling the Macron bonus – The maximum annual bonus – which is exempt from income and social security taxes – will be tripled.

It is a one time, tax-free payout that can be given to workers by their employers – if they chose to. Companies will now be able to pay up to €3,000 to their employees (and up to €6,000 for those with a profit-sharing scheme).

Who: This pertains to salariés (employees) whose businesses choose to offer this bonus.

When: The bonus can be paid between August 1st and December 31st.

Rent cap – Rent increases will be limited to 3.5 percent per year for existing tenants. Some cities already have in place their own rent control schemes, but the 3.5 percent cap is nationwide.

Who – This affects anyone who already has a tenancy agreement for a property in France (and also affects all landlords who are banned from making big rent hikes).

When – The 3.5 percent cap concerns annual rent increases that fall between July 2022 and June 2023.

Housing allowance – Those who benefit from personalised assistance for housing (APL) will see that increased by 3.5 percent.

Who: This pertains to those who qualify for governmental financial assistance with rent. Typically, this means low-income households. If you are already on APL – around 3.5 million people – the increase will be automatic, if you think you might qualify, apply through your local CAF.

When: The increase comes in your next payment, with the increased rate backdated to July 1st 2022.

Social benefits – The RSA top-up benefit will be increased by four percent (local authorities, who deal with RSA, will receive €600 million to help them finance and allocate this increase). Additionally, those who benefit from the ‘prime d’activité‘ (activity bonus) will see that value raised by four percent as well.

Who: Unemployed people below the age of 25 can qualify for RSA – this pertains to about 1.9 million people in France. The activity bonus is available to low-income workers – about 4.3 million people.

When: Catch-up payments will be in place from August 18th to September 5th. On September 5th, the updated payment will begin to be paid out.

Student grants – An increase of 4 percent for student grants (bourses) for higher education

Who: Students under the age of 28 who qualify for financial assistance in the form of grants. These students must qualify as ‘financially precarious’ for the school year of 2022-2023.

When: September 2022

Back-to-school grants – Families who meet certain income requirements are eligible for an allowance to help cover back-to-school costs – that grant will increase by four percent this year. There will also be an extra €100 subsidy for eligible families (with an additional €50 per child) paid “to those who need it most” according to Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire in an interview with RTL. 

Who: Low-income families with children. You can test your family’s eligibility on the website www.service-public.fr. This aid will impact 10.8 million households.

When: The one time payment will be paid at the start of the school-year in September.

The option to convert overtime days into extra cash – This is encompassed in two measures: increasing the ceiling of tax exempt overtime hours to €7,500 and opening the possibility for companies to buy back RTT days from their employees.

Eligible employees covered by the 35-hour week agreement accrue time in lieu if they work overtime, known as RTT days. Currently this time is taken as extra vacation days, but now employees will have the option to forgo the time off and instead be paid extra.

Who: For the buying back of RTT days, this applies to employees (salariés) who have an RTT agreement with their company.

For the increased cap on non-taxed overtime work, this applies to a range of employees, such as those who have 35-hour per week contracts and have their employer request that they work overtime or those who work beyond their part-time contract amount. You can learn more about whether you have the ability to declare overtime hours HERE

When: The RTT days buyout will run from between January 1st, 2022 to December 31st, 2025. For employees eligible for tax-free overtime compensation, the ceiling of €7,500 will only be in place for the year 2022.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why is France’s 35-hour week such a sacred cow?

Pay rise for public sector workers – public sector pay will get a four percent rise in the index.

Who: Anyone employed in France as a fonctionnaire (eg civil servants, teachers, librarians).

When: This will be retroactive to July 1st

Assistance for some self-employed workers – A reduction in health and maternity insurance contributions will be introduced for low-earning self-employed workers. “Microentrepreneurs” will also benefit from a reduction in their flat-rate contributions.

Who: Self-employed workers whose monthly income does not exceed 1.6 times the minimum wage and who are registered as ‘microentrepeneurs’

When: TBC

The biometric carte vitale –  The Senate introduced this into the purchasing power package, but it is not a benefit. It will involve the implementation of a biometric carte vitale health card to “fight against social fraud” by adding an electronic chip with biometric data on it to health insurance cards. You can read more HERE.

Who: Everyone who is registered in the French health system and has a carte vitale (about 60 million people)

When: Lawmakers will begin plans to implement the plans in Autumn 2022, but it’s not clearly exactly what form the rollout will take.

How much will these measures impact inflation?

Some measures will likely be more effective than others. For instance, the extension of the tariff shield and increase of the fuel rebate in the early fall is largely to thank for France’s inflation level being two points lower than the European average, according to INSEE.

On the other hand, the tripling of the ceiling for the (optional) Macron bonus will likely not make a large difference. This is because it will likely not be widely taken advantage of, as last year only 4 million French people received the optional bonus, with the approximate average of the bonus having been only €500.

The pension changes will impact about 14.8 million people in France. However, according to economist Christopher Dembik, the revalorsation values are based on actual inflation and not on inflation expectations. “These revaluation measures will be too weak by the time they will be implemented,” Dembik said to French daily Le Parisien.

SHOW COMMENTS