In the future, the French should no longer be allowed to film police officers in action. Journalists see their work in danger as a result.
PARIS taz | Thousands of people demonstrated over the weekend in France against the passage of a new law that bans filming by police officers. On Saturday alone, 22,000 people took to the streets in Paris, including numerous journalists. The National Assembly passed the passage on Friday evening in the first reading. It makes filming a criminal offense if the recordings could injure the physical or mental integrity of officers. Anyone who publishes such pictures faces a year in prison and a fine of up to 45,000 euros.
The article aims against all those who want to show with their recordings how the police use violence against protesters. “We are here to speak and defend the freedom,” said Edwy Plenel of the investigative Internet platform Mediapart at a rally in Paris. Even in the ruling party La République en Marche (LREM) and its coalition partner Modem there was resistance to the project. Modem MP Laurence Vichnievsky saw it as a “disproportionate violation of freedom of expression and communication”. The left-wing La France Insoumise MP, Eric Coquerel, had warned: “If this law gets through, the police will have the right to prevent them from being filmed on the spot.”
Even the appeal of the human rights commissioner Claire Hédon had brought nothing before the vote in the National Assembly: 146 MPs had voted for the passage on “global security”, 24 against. At the last minute, the government added that freedom of information would not be affected by the text.
The government responded to the criticism by sending LREM parliamentary group leader Christophe Castaner. He wrote an article for the newspaper Journal du Dimanche: “At a time when one can die for a drawing, we want to tell you, dear journalists, that we will continue to defend your freedom to write and target us.”
Violence against demonstrators became particularly evident two years ago at the “yellow vests” rallies: at that time, more than 20 people lost an eye to hard rubber bullets from the police. Numerous photos and videos showed the police violence, which was also directed against bystanders.
Interior Minister pours fuel on the fire
Criticism of the law also came from the United Nations Human Rights Council. The editor-in-chief of the newspaper Le Monde, Jérôme Fenoglio, also wrote in an editorial: “The governments appointed by Emmanuel Macron and the President himself have great difficulties in respecting freedom of information.”
The statements of ex-Interior Minister Castaner contrast with those of his successor Gérald Darmanin. He had pushed Article 24. The political foster son of ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy even demanded that journalists be accredited by the responsible prefect before reporting on demonstrations. More than 40 media responded and wrote: “You don’t need accreditation to practice our profession freely in public spaces.”