France debates controversial crackdown on police filming in “gag law” criticism movement

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Mr Darminin denied it would violate reporting, saying journalists “could obviously still film any police intervention.”But France’s human rights ombudsman, Claire Hedon, said the bill posed “significant risks of undermining fundamental rights”, including freedom of the press.

“The publication of images relating to police interventions is legitimate and necessary” in a democracy, she declared.

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

They warn that the legislation is similar to a “gag law” in force in Spain since 2015, which could lead to self-censorship in relation to police footage.

Critics warn the bill risked imposing “massive” self-censorship and argue that the images posted online help expose police errors and brutality.

Legal experts also say it will be difficult to determine whether the footage is posted with “intent to harm.”

French police are often accused of being harsh. Hundreds of complaints of violence were filed against police officers during anti-government “yellow vests” rallies that erupted in 2018.

In July, three police officers were charged with manslaughter over the death of a delivery boy, Cédric Chouviat, who was filmed by passers-by as officers locked him up after his arrest for a traffic violation near the Tower Eiffel.

Mr. Chouviat shouted “I’m suffocating” seven times before his body went limp, in a scenario similar to “I can’t breathe” uttered by George Floyd, the black American who also died after being pinned to the ground in last May, sparking the Black Lives Matter movement.

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



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