Lawmakers in France are currently debating a controversial new bill that would ban citizens and journalists from sharing images of police officers’ faces, sparking protests in Paris and other cities.
President Macron’s ‘comprehensive new security law’ would also see local police forces given more autonomy and potentially increase armed officers. It also contains plans to increase the use of surveillance drones in areas with high crime rates.
Several human rights groups and journalists have expressed their opposition to the ‘gag law’ that would punish the dissemination of images that undermine the ‘physical or psychological integrity’ of police officers with fines of up to 45,000 euro. A similar law was introduced in Spain in 2015.
Protestors gathered outside the National Assembly in Paris, which led to police using tear gas and water cannons when some demonstrators began damaging property. Similar protests took place in Lyon, Marseilles, Bordeaux, Grenoble, and other cities.
French police have been accused in the past of employing heavy-handed tactics against protestors and during arrests of minority group individuals, primarily black and Arab citizens in poor urban areas. Last year’s Yellow Vest protests saw several allegations of police brutality, and riots were sparked in July when a delivery driver died after being put in a chokehold by officers following a traffic offence in the capital.
The new security law comes as Macron’s centrist government attempts to improve the conditions of officers working in high-risk areas. Last month a high-profile mob attack on a police station in suburban Paris by criminals wielding weapons sparked outrage among officers. France’s Interior Minister, Gerald Darmanin, said the law was designed to ‘protect those who protect us’.
Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council expressed its concern that the new laws ‘could discourage, even punish, those who could supply elements of potential human rights violations by law enforcement’.
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