French protest against law that prohibits spreading images of officers

Several thousand people demonstrated in the French capital Paris on Saturday against a security law that criminalizes the distribution of images of police officers. Demonstrations were also held in cities such as Lille, Rennes, Marseille, Saint-Etienne and Montpellier.

Law already partly approved by parliament

According to the protesters, the law would jeopardize freedom of expression.

In Trocadéro Square in Paris, tension increased in the late afternoon after police ordered protesters to disperse. Trash cans were set on fire and a number of protesters threw projectiles at police, who in turn responded with the use of water cannons.

Human rights organizations see the bill as a means to restrict freedom of the press and to make an investigation into possible abuse of power by the police impossible. A violation would face a maximum of one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros.

Proponents say that police officers and their families need protection from harassment both online and in person when off duty.

Thousands of French people demonstrated against the law, because they fear it would restrict freedom of expression (photo: ANP).

The bill was partially approved in the French parliament on Friday evening. A final vote will follow early next week. If the proposal is passed, it will become a criminal offense to distribute images of police officers unless their faces are made unrecognizable. In this context it is referred to as a “breach of the physical or psychological integrity” of the security services.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin believes the law is necessary to “protect those who protect us”. Police officers in France have increasingly been the target of threats and violence.

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