A bill that would make it a crime to spread the image of a police officer in certain circumstances passed the first hurdle in the French parliament on Tuesday despite protests from rights activists and journalists.
Opponents say the law – led by parliament by tough Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin – would block journalists’ freedom to report on public events and make it harder to hold officers accountable if they use excessive force.
Supporters say the planned law is designed to protect officers and their families from being trolled online and harassed or attacked when they are not on duty.
According to the plans, anyone convicted of spreading a police image with the intention of seeing them injured can be imprisoned for one year and fined 45,000 euros (53,450 dollars).
Although the bill was proposed by two lawmakers from President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist La République en Marche (LaRem), 10 LaRem MPs voted against it and 30 abstained. From LaRem ally MoDem, five MPs voted against it and 18 abstained.
FRANCE 24’s Armen Georgian discusses France’s bill restricting police identification
After days of often heated debate, the bill received 388 yes votes, 104 no votes and 66 abstentions, with the conservative Les Republicains and the far-right Rassemblement National voting the most with LaRem and all left parties voting against it.
Prime Minister Jean Castex told parliament that the government did not focus on freedom of the press but wanted to protect the police.
“The goal is not to stop anyone from filming or broadcasting images that highlight a fact or a public event,” said Castex, who will hold talks with journalists’ unions this week.
In a nod to the opposition, Castex said the government would present the bill to the Constitutional Council to verify that it is in line with the constitution. Opposition parties often appeal to the Council over disputed bills.
The French Senate, controlled by the Conservative opposition, will vote on the bill in January, after which it can return to parliament for a final vote.