French lawmakers have given their final support for a controversial “global security” law which has sparked widespread demonstrations.
The bill is centred on “Article 24”, which will make it an offence to maliciously share images that identify police officers in operation by face or name.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said the law would protect police officers from online calls for violence. Police unions have also expressed their support for the measures.
But the legislation has been widely criticised by both humans rights and media organisations who say that it would curtail press freedom and lead to less police accountability.
Thousands of French citizens had demonstrated against the original bill and increased incidents of police violence at nationwide rallies in November.
The rallies prompted the French government to announce a “complete new rewrite” of the contested article, which had originally been approved by the country’s Senate.
The legislation had also initially planned to allow the police to share images of their operations online, among other amendments.
But the bill has now been reduced down from 70 articles to its most controversial amendment and subsequently renamed “Global Security Law preserving liberties”.
Under Article 24, it will be an offence to disseminate images of national police officers or gendarmes if there is intention or “provocation” to identify them.
Any shared videos with malicious intent to identify the spouse, partner, or child of a police or customs officer will also be punished.
Those found guilty could face a sentence of up to five years in prison and a €75,000 fine.
This has been increased from the original legislation, which carried a sentence of one year and a €45,000 fine.
The law states that an offending person must have “the obvious aim of damaging the physical or psychological integrity” of the police officer in question.
But the provisions have still faced opposition from NGOs including Reporters without Borders (RSF) and Amnesty International France, who were among those that encouraged people to go to the protests.
Journalists have particularly expressed concern that they are endangered by filming police officers during their work, for example at protests.
Pauline Adès-Mével, editors-in-chief of RSF, told in December that the “intent to harm” provision was still a “slippery measure”.
“We totally understand what the police is expecting and we do understand that police need to be protected, but the burden is currently on press freedom and journalists,” she added.
“We need some measures that allow journalists to do their job on the field without being prevented from going live, or to be thought of as having an intention to harm.”
France’s National Consultative Commission on Human Rights has stated that the government has never intended to undermine press freedom with the bill.
Organisers of the demonstrations against the law last year said 500,000 people gathered, while the government estimated there had been 133,000 people present.
Dozens of police officers were injured at the rallies, which took place despite a national lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The source: Euronews