There were violent clashes across France as thousands took to the streets in protest against a controversial proposed all-encompassing “global security law” which would criminalize filming police activity in certain circumstances.
The proposed legislation, currently being debated by the French parliament, seeks to criminalize photographing or filming the police with intent to cause harm. It would also reportedly give more autonomy to local police, arm more officers nationwide and expand the use of surveillance drones in high-crime areas.
Video shared online purports to show journalists being detained at Tuesday’s nationwide protests, which grew increasingly violent as the day wore on.
Thousands of citizens attended protests in numerous cities across the country, including some 400 people in Rennes; an estimated 700 protesters in Lyon and 1,300 people in Toulouse; Up to 800 people, including a local councillor who lost a hand during a yellow vest protest in 2018, attended a march in Bordeaux and an 800-strong protest was held in Grenoble.
The draft bill would make it Illegal to “disseminate, by whatever means and on whatever medium, with the aim of damaging physical or psychological integrity, the image of the face or any other element of identification of an official of the national police or a member of the national gendarmerie when they are acting in the context of a police operation.”
Protests held in Paris were particularly violent, with tear gas and water cannon deployed to disperse the crowds.
Footage also purported to show fleeing protesters, soaked by water cannon and suffering the effects of tear gas, trapped on a metro.
Penalties of up to one year in prison and a €45,000 fine are being considered alongside the new proposed legislation, backed by President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling La République En Marche party.
The law’s co-author Jean-Michel Fauvergue, a former chief of France’s elite RAID police unit, dismissed claims the law would provide immunity for police abuse, saying “in no way does this stop journalists from working.”
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin claimed the proposed legislation is necessary to “protect those who protect us,” but rights groups and journalists’ unions say the bill is ripe for abuse and dangerously open to errant interpretation.
Amnesty and Reporters Without Borders argue that the proposed law in its current form contains vague and poorly-defined terms, including the concept of “intent” behind the publication of images or videos on social media or via news sites, which would be open to abuse from authorities.
An open letter signed by journalists across France calls for more consultation and claims that there is already sufficient protection for authorities in place.
The UN Human Rights Council also warned against the proposal, saying it was open to abuse and “could discourage, even punish those who could supply elements of potential human rights violations by law enforcement, and provide a sort of immunity.”
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