“Freedom, equality, brotherhood,” these are the three basic principles upon which the French Republic was built. French President Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly stated over the past two months that he will protect them and ensure their application among all French, but what is the mechanism of Macron and his party for this? This is what Mira Kamdar, a writer based in Paris, discusses in an article published by the American magazine “The Atlantic”, as she believes that Macron, in order to ensure a return to the basic principles of the Republic, enact and his party legislation that undermines these principles from the ground up.
The massacre of preparatory school teacher, Samuel Patty, on October 16, by a young man angry over Patty showing his classroom cartoons offensive to the Prophet Muhammad previously published by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to pledge that France would not hold back Defending freedom of opinion and expression. Macron and members of his party have come forward in the name of the principles of the French Republic and adhere to new legislation that severely limits these principles, and if these proposed laws are not amended or abolished in the first place, France will soon be much less free than it is now.
The three proposed legislations aim to protect the French by restricting democratic rights, as the law that sets the budget for scientific research for French universities for a full decade, and was adopted by the French Senate on November 20, targets student protests and assassinates academic freedom. The draft law includes an article criminalizing gatherings on university campuses that would “destabilize the calm and disrupt the public order of the institution,” with a fine of up to 45,000 euros and a prison term of up to three years. At the last moment, the amendment requiring scientific research to be subject to “the values of the republic” was canceled after strong protest from scholars concerned that the article was formulated with the intention of restricting the freedom of scientific research.
Although this last-minute change is good news for academic freedom, the state pays great attention to the ideology that is expressed in scientific research in France. For his part, French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blancer denounced the American critical racial theory and its influence on French social science, blaming it for undermining France’s blind racial and ethnic universality and for making room for the Islamic left. This term, coined by the French far-right, blames progressive intellectuals for nurturing fundamentalist political Islam through their work on structural racism and Islamophobia.
A second part of the new legislation was the draft “Comprehensive Security Law,” which was introduced on November 17th, and aims to free policemen’s hands. The bill was unabashedly supported by the right-wing French Interior Minister Gerald Dermanen, the man who said, “The cancer of society is the lack of respect for authority.” It is an amazing observation if we look at the fact that 49 thousand French died from “Covid-19” last year, and that more than 10 million others will be thrown into poverty by the end of December.
There are also two other articles of concern within this law, one that criminalizes publishing or sharing any photos on social media in which policemen appear, unless all the distinctive features in them are obliterated, and the ban on live broadcasting, investigative investigation, and public accountability for police violations are put into effect. The other article authorizes the use of drones to photograph citizens in public gatherings, and allows the authorities to follow-up through live and continuous broadcasts from cameras carried by police officers in these gatherings. The bill aroused the anger and attention of the French press, as well as denunciations from the United Nations, the French Independent Office for the Defense of Rights and Amnesty International (Amnesty International).
On November 18, after police detained two journalists while they were covering an anti-law protest, Dermanin gave advice to journalists so that they would not meet the fate of their colleagues, which is to let the local government know their identity before heading to cover any protest. This idea, which is essentially government officials reviewing the content prepared by journalists, has sparked outrage, prompting Dermanin to review his statement and slightly amend it. In an editorial on November 20, Jerome Fenoglio, editor-in-chief of the French newspaper Le Monde, wrote that it was imperative to abolish the law altogether. Fenoglio cited Macron and his government’s increasing attacks on the press, and blamed the English-speaking press, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, for what he considered to be “legitimizing violence against the press,” and Fenoglio listed some of the other most sensitive violations committed by the police, which were revealed by citizens. Ordinary. But all of this was in vain, as debate on the bill ended late on Friday 20 November, and it moved into the voting stage before the National Assembly. As for a large part of the French Republic’s slogan “Freedom, Equality, and Brotherhood,” the bill risks turning France into a watchdog state, a direct violation of citizens’ right to private life, and turning it into a state where the police are immune from accountability from citizens or the press.
As if all of the above was not bad enough, there is a third bill that was formulated to fulfill Macron’s vision in dealing with Islamic fundamentalism, which he referred to in his speech on the second of last October on “separatism”, and his cabinet considered the bill on 9 Last December. Under this law, which was called the “Affirmation of the Principles of the Republic” law, all French children will be assigned a tracking number to enforce compulsory attendance in public or government-recognized schools, which will eliminate homeschooling and unaccredited religious schools, and ensure that all children learn in light of Values of the French Republic.
Moreover, the bill criminalizes sharing identifying information with a government employee that could be used to cause harm, and is a response to the fact that teacher Patty’s information was circulated on social media, which allowed the killer to track down and eliminate him. This new stipulated crime will carry a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine of 45,000 euros. In addition, there is another article in this law, which will carry a sentence of five years imprisonment, which criminalizes “threatening, practicing violence or intimidating a government employee … motivated by convictions or beliefs.” Some legal scholars have expressed concerns about the stretched wording of the law that could be used to indict people simply for justifiable criticism of a government employee.
France is besieged, bruised. Rampant unemployment, frustration with lockdown measures due to the “Covid-19” pandemic, and fear generated by renewed terrorist attacks can only exacerbate the instability and division. Of course, all of this is a gift for rival far-right populist leader Marie Le Pen, the rival. Macron’s potential in the 2022 presidential elections. Macron’s strategy branches into three axes: imposing a harsh regime, setting up mechanisms to kill any demonstrations in their infancy, curbing critical journalism, in addition to adopting some of the rhetoric of the extreme right and its policies to steal a sufficient number of voters, then defeat this In the process, legislation will wipe out the freedom Macron so desperately defends for which France has sacrificed so much, and in the long run it will bequeath to a more authoritarian leader a powerful set of anti-democratic tools.
This article is translated from The Atlantic and does not necessarily represent the Meydan website.