Associations of journalists and civic organizations called for the protests, which took place mainly in Paris, Lille and Montpellier, accusing the state of massive interference in journalistic freedom and hampering efforts to prosecute law enforcement for numerous abuses against protesters. demonstrations of “yellow vests” resulting in serious injuries among protesters.
According to the provisions of the bill, the publication of images showing police officers during the intervention is punishable by up to one year in prison and fines of 45,000 euros.
“Those in power are increasingly trying to prevent citizens, journalists and whistleblowers from exposing the state’s mistakes. When that happens, democracy disappears, “warns Edwy Plenel, editor-in-chief of the Mediapart investigation portal.
Two journalists were arrested on Tuesday in a protest in which clashes with law enforcement forces took place while parliamentarians in the National Assembly were debating the bill, supported by President Emmanuel Macron.
The bill was approved in the first reading by the National Assembly on Friday, a second vote being scheduled for Tuesday, and then it will reach the Senate debate.
Lawmakers say police officers and their families need protection from harassment, both online and in person when on duty.
Critics say the law would violate journalists’ freedom to report and make it more difficult for police to be held accountable for abuses such as excessive use of force – growing concern.
The controversial article punishes with one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros the dissemination of “the image of the face or any other element of identification” of law enforcement during their intervention when it “infringes” their “physical integrity.” or psychic ”.
In Paris, human rights activists, trade unionists and journalists chanted: “Everyone wants to film the police!”
Some had placards with messages such as “We’ll put down the phones when you put down your weapons.” Many demonstrators wore the well-known yellow vests.
Similar demonstrations were planned in Marseille, Montpellier, Rennes and Saint-Etienne.
A government amendment, passed by lawmakers on Friday with 146 votes in favor and 24 against, said the measure could not “harm the right to information”.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said he would “remove any ambiguity about the intention to guarantee respect for public freedoms while better protecting police and gendarmes, who ensure the protection of the population. The new law on “global security” initially aimed to expand the scope of action of municipal police and better structure the private security sector.
But in October, President Emmanuel Macron’s parliamentary majority added new security measures to the demands of police unions, who complained that the police were the target of increasing threats and aggression.
French law enforcement has been criticized in particular for the force tactics used during the protests that began in 2018 and for the arbitrary arrests made especially among Maghrebis and people of color.