French journalists criticized what they considered “the suppression of freedoms” by French President Emmanuel Macron and his government for controversial legislation, which they see as a grave violation of the freedom of the press.
The French Parliament is discussing a draft law on “comprehensive security”, which is a law that strengthens the powers of the police in surveillance and criminalizes the publication of pictures of its members during their intervention to control security.
Most of the unions in the media sector signed joint petitions protesting the law, especially Article 24.
This article restricts the publication of photos of police officers while they are working, and imposes a one-year prison sentence and a fine of 45,000 euros for anyone who publishes pictures of a policeman or gendarme “face or any identification mark” while performing his work with the aim of “inflicting physical or psychological harm on him.”
The bill also establishes a framework for the use of surveillance cameras and drones to combat terrorism and monitor demonstrations.
The protest situation escalated following the arrest of a journalist from the French Channel 3 (a public television channel) by the police for filming a demonstration, even after he presented the authorities with his media credentials, according to a statement by the channel’s director.
When Interior Minister Gerald Darmanan was asked about the incident at a press conference on Wednesday, he said that the journalist did not inform the police of his intention to cover the protest before doing so, adding that “if journalists cover the demonstrations, they should contact the authorities.”
French newspaper Le Monde said in an editorial that the new law “blatantly violates a democratic right.”
Liberation newspaper editor Dove Alfon said the French government’s campaign undermined Macron’s attempts to present himself as a global defender of press freedom.
For his part, Edouie Plenelle, director of the French news site Media Part, said that the government is questioning the foundations of a free press in France, which are guaranteed by the law of 1881.
He added, “The forces that are trying to prevent the press from doing their work in covering state violence are not only the police, they are the state behind them.”
French legal scholars questioned the basis of this law, which they saw as a way for the government to try to avoid accountability, as the French constitutional expert Patrick Weil said, “If the law is passed, you will not be able to shoot a video showing the killing of George Floyd in France.”