France considers ban on police images, alarming rights defenders

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PARIS (AP) – The lower house of the French parliament on Tuesday opens 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 human rights ombudsperson, believe this measure would undermine press freedom.

Violators could face up to one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($ 53,000) under the bill defended by lawmakers from President Emmanuel Macron’s party, which has a majority in the National Assembly.

The most controversial measure in the bill would make it a new criminal offense “broadcasting, by any means and through any medium, with the intention of causing 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” .

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

But French human rights ombudsperson Claire Hedon said the bill entailed “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, the measure would endanger journalists and citizen journalists, especially during violent protests. 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.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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