France considers ban on police images, alarming rights defenders


PARIS – The lower house of the French parliament opens on Tuesday the debate on a security bill that would allow the imprisonment of people who publish images of police officers with the intention of harming them.Critics, including the French ombudsman for human rights, believe that this measure would undermine press freedom.

Violators could face up to one year in prison and a fine of $ 53,000 under the bill defended by lawmakers from President Emmanuel Macron’s party, which has a majority in the National Assembly.

The bill’s most controversial measure would make it a new criminal offense “broadcasting, by any means and through any medium, with the intent to cause physical or psychological harm, an image of the face or any other element. to identify a police officer. ”

Supporters for the measure include Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin. Speaking last week, he said it was necessary because police officers “are under constant threat in their personal lives” after being identified and because there are “calls for female officers to be raped” .

Protesters organize a demonstration by the National Assembly against the security bill in Paris, France.
Protesters organize a demonstration by the National Assembly against the security bill in Paris, France.AP

He downplayed any impact on journalists, saying they “will obviously still be able to film any police intervention.”

But the French human rights ombudsman, Claire Hedon, said the bill carries “significant risks of undermining fundamental rights”, including freedom of the press.

“The publication of images relating to police interventions is legitimate and necessary for democratic functioning,” she said.

Journalists’ unions and human rights activists called for demonstrations outside the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Critics warn the bill will result in “massive” self-censorship and argue that the images posted online help expose police errors and brutality. According to them, this measure would endanger journalists and citizen-journalists, especially during violent demonstrations. They are also concerned about how the courts will determine whether the footage was posted with intent to cause harm.

The National Assembly is due to vote next week on the bill, which will then be sent to the Senate.


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