Rights groups, press freedom advocates protest against French security bill

Thousands protested in Paris and other French cities on Saturday against a security bill that would ban the publication of pictures of police officers on duty. The government says the law aims to protect officers from retaliation, while critics say it would violate press freedom and the ability to document police abuse.

Rights campaigns and journalists’ organizations staged street protests in Paris and other French cities on Saturday against a security bill that they say would violate freedom of information.

The proposed measure would create a new crime to publish pictures of police officers with the intention of harming them.

The government says it is intended to protect police from online calls for violence. Critics fear that the measure, if adopted, would jeopardize journalists and other people who take videos of officers at work, especially during violent demonstrations.

Saturday’s protests were called by Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International France, the Human Rights League, journalists’ unions and other groups.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the French Ombudsman for Human Rights have also expressed concern this week about the risks that the measure would undermine fundamental rights.

In response to the criticism, Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday announced a change in the measure to specify that it “will not hinder the freedom of information” and that it will only focus on images sent with the “clear” intention of harming a police officer.

Criminals would receive a maximum penalty of up to one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($ 53,000).

The proposed law is being fought by lawmakers for President Emmanuel Macron’s party, which has a majority in the National Assembly.

Legislators are scheduled to vote on Tuesday on the bill, which also includes other security measures. It will then go to the Senate.