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World French lawmakers pass national security bill that restricts publication of images of police

02:05  25 november  2020
02:05  25 november  2020 Source:   cnn.com

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French lawmakers on Tuesday began debating a bill that could ban dissemination of images of police Publication on social media or elsewhere with the intent of undermining an officer's "physical or psychological Read more: French bill banning images of police worries activists and journalists.

The French government has stepped into a pile of steaming merde with its push to ban the publication of images of police on duty in the name of protecting the The question to be asked is not how to protect those who are meant to be protecting French citizens – it’s why they feel the need for a media

French lawmakers passed a bill on Tuesday that critics say could make it harder for journalists and human rights advocates to hold police accountable.

a group of people walking down the street: PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 17: Security forces use tear gas as they intervene in protests against the French Government's proposed global security law bill on November 17, 2020 in Paris, France. The protesters include activists, reporters and unions who are concerned that Article 24 of the bill, which prohibits the diffusion of images of police © Julien Mattia/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 17: Security forces use tear gas as they intervene in protests against the French Government's proposed global security law bill on November 17, 2020 in Paris, France. The protesters include activists, reporters and unions who are concerned that Article 24 of the bill, which prohibits the diffusion of images of police "with intention to harm", threatens the press freedom in France. Several MPs have criticised the bill's implications and President Macron has come under fire from national journalism unions and the UN for the proposals, relating to police accountability and the use of drones for street surveillance. (Photo by Julien Mattia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) a group of people on a stage: Lawyers and journalists protest outside the National Assembly against the security law bill on November 17. © Kiran Ridley/Getty Images Lawyers and journalists protest outside the National Assembly against the security law bill on November 17.

The Global Security Bill's most controversial section -- Article 24 -- which was approved by lawmakers on Friday, forbids the publication of images that allow the identification of a law enforcement officer "with the intent to cause them harm, physically or mentally."

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French lawmakers have given the green light to a controversial security law clamping down on the publication of images of on-duty police Under Article 24 of the bill , those caught distributing images of on-duty officers "with the aim or harming their physical or psychological integrity" are liable

French lawmakers will vote on a controversial bill that human rights advocates say will make it harder to hold police to account. An article approved last week forbids the publication of images "that allow the identification of a law enforcement officer, with the intent to cause them harm."

The bill -- which has been the subject of much criticism and several protests -- was amended by the government, lawmakers say, to ensure the freedom of the press.

Now that the bill has been passed by the National Assembly, it will head to the Senate in December.

In a statement before Tuesday's vote, Prime Minister Jean Castex's office said the new law should not "prejudice the legitimate interest of the public to be informed."

But the amendment was not enough for Claire Hedon, a veteran journalist appointed earlier this year as France's Defender of Human Rights.

Speaking on French television just after the vote on Article 24, Hedon called the amendment a step in the right direction but warned that "in our legislative arsenal, there already exists the possibility to punish anyone who uses, in an ill-intentioned way, the videos that they publish."

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The Bill makes it illegal to share images of police officers in which they can be easily identified. On Friday, the French National Assembly approved the Bill that imposes a ban on distributing images in Now the Bill has to be approved by the Senate. Protesters insist that this law undermines the

The Global Security Bill , pushed forward by the French government, was passed by the National Assembly on Friday and is expected to be approved by the Senate next week. Among other things, it criminalizes the distribution of images of law enforcement, both by the media and the public .

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Parisians protest the security bill near the Eiffel Tower on Monday. © Isa Harsin/SIPA/Shutterstock Parisians protest the security bill near the Eiffel Tower on Monday.

On Saturday, there were more protests against the bill with an estimated 22,000 people taking part in marches across France. In Paris the crowds included representatives of the media, along with some gilets jaunes (yellow vest) protesters and members of Extinction Rebellion.

'Worrying message to send'

Overall, the Global Security Bill would expand the ability of security forces to film ordinary citizens without their consent through police bodycams and drones, while restricting the publication of photos or videos of police officers' faces.

Amnesty International says that if the bill becomes law in its current form, France -- one of the first countries in the world to proclaim the concept of universal human rights -- will become an exception among democracies.

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French police violently dismantled a makeshift migrant camp in the heart of Paris overnight, clashing with migrants and activists. Security law dispute. Article 24 of the bill makes it a criminal offence to post images of police or soldiers on social media which are deemed to target them as individuals.

"If people cannot film anything in the streets when the police may sometimes have an illegal use of force it's a very worrying message to send," according to Cecile Coudriou, president of Amnesty International France.

"On one hand, citizens are asked to accept the possibility of being filmed under the pretext that they have nothing to fear if they have done nothing wrong. And at the same time the police refuse to be filmed, which is a right in every democracy in the world."

The bill's defenders say it is necessary after police officers were singled out and harassed on social media during the gilets jaunes protests of 2018 and 2019. They also say nothing in the bill stops journalists from doing their job, since prosecution would depend on the need to show an "intent to cause harm."

But Reporters Without Borders says this provision is too vague. "Intent is a concept that is open to interpretation and hard to determine," the organization said in a statement.

"Any photos or video showing identifiable police officers that are published or broadcast by critical media outlets or are accompanied by critical comments could find themselves being accused of seeking to harm these police officers," the group said.

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In parliament, the bill is being pushed by two lawmakers from President Emmanuel Macron's La République en Marche party. One of them, Jean-Michel Fauvergue, the former head of the police anti-terrorism unit, told parliament this week: "Article 24 aims to ban their exposure and their harassment on social networks, by malicious and dangerous individuals. No worries: Journalists will still be able to do their job."

The bill's other co-sponsor Alice Thourot, told CNN: "The broadcasting and capturing of images, whether with a camera or by citizens on a phone, of policemen doing their job with their faces exposed will be still be possible. What will change is that any calls for violence or incitement of hatred that accompany such pictures will be sanctioned by the law."

Police batons and tear gas

And there are fears that the proposed law has already emboldened police during protests.

Last Tuesday, as the debate inside the National Assembly began, protesters converged on the building to demonstrate against Article 24. Thirty-three protesters were taken in for questioning, mainly on the grounds of having failed to disperse when ordered to by police.

Among them was a France Television journalist detained overnight before being released the following afternoon without charge. France Television, the country's main public broadcaster, put out a statement condemning what it called the "abusive and arbitrary arrest of a journalist who was doing his job."

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At a press conference on Wednesday, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin was asked about the police response to the protests, and video of one journalist who claims police threatened him with arrest even though he'd shown his press card.

"The journalist did not approach the police ahead of the protest -- as some of his colleagues did -- in order to be allowed to cover it," said Darmanin. Nothing in French law requires journalists to seek the permission of the police before covering a protest.

On Monday night, the interior minister himself responded shortly after the dismantling of a migrant camp in Paris, saying that some of the images had been shocking.

Images and video posted online showed what appeared to be police chasing people down streets and striking journalists with both police batons and tear gas. Darmanin tweeted that he had demanded a detailed report on the incident, adding: "I will take decisions as soon as I receive it."

Incitement of hatred

But beyond the work of journalists, there are also fears about what the bill means for members of the public and what they might capture on their phones.

As Coudriou explains, "there have been so many cases of police brutality recently in France exposed precisely through the sorts of things that would now become illegal. Amnesty International has used a lot of these videos, after verifying their authenticity. They show how some police brutality could occur despite a constant strategy of denial."

Earlier this year Cédric Chouviat, a 42-year-old father of five of North African heritage, died shortly after being stopped by police near the Eiffel Tower. During the stop, filmed by several passing motorists, Chouviat was pinned down by three police officers; he died in a hospital two days later, and his autopsy revealed a broken larynx, according to the prosecutor in the case.

After several months and an initial denial of any impropriety on the part of the police, the amateur footage in part led to the opening of a criminal investigation into the actions of the officers involved. Three officers now face charges of manslaughter. All of them deny any wrongdoing

"It would be saying, after George Floyd, we're not going to allow the filming of police," according to David Dufresne, who says his recent film about police brutality, "The Monopoly of Violence," simply couldn't have been made if the global security bill were law.

"In France we have a similar case: Cédric Chouviat," Dufresne told CNN. "The people who pass and see that there is a police check that looks like it's going badly. None of them know what happens next which is the death of this man. When they start filming it is because they understand that they must."

Protests over security bill take place across France .
PARIS (AP) — Thousands of critics of a proposed security law that would restrict sharing images of police officers in France gathered across the country in protest Saturday, while Paris officers were advised to behave responsibly during the demonstrations in the wake of footage showing police using violence becoming public. Dozens of rallies against a provision of the law that would make it a crime to publish photos or video of on-duty police officers with the intent of harming their “physical or psychological integrity.

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