The French Parliament definitively approved this Thursday the so-called Global Security Law that includes a controversial article that restricts the right to disclose images of police officers that sparked numerous demonstrations against them.
In the final vote in the National Assembly, a total of 75 deputies spoke in favor of a law that the Interior Minister, Gérald Darmanin , did not hesitate to describe in a statement as the “most important” text in the field of security in ten years.
Its most controversial point is Article 24, which initially envisaged prohibiting and punishing with up to one year in prison and a 45,000 euro fine the dissemination of images of law enforcement officers if they could be identified with them, and that with the argument of that it could endanger them personally.
Faced with the reaction it generated in very broad groups, including journalists’ associations and human rights defense NGOs, as well as the left-wing opposition -which denounced a censorship mechanism-, the Government promised to correct it, something of which the Senate was commissioned.
In its final formulation, with the same penalties as at the beginning, a crime of “provocation to the identification” of the agents of the public force is created, in the image of what already exists with the provocation of hatred or crime.
Conflict with freedom of the press
What is punished with that article that the police unions demanded to protect them from more and more frequent attacks is the malicious will to identify them during their interventions, but with a series of protections for press freedom.
These safeguards have not convinced many associations that, like Amnesty International , consider that the final text is too vague and continues to leave the door open to legal proceedings for issuing images or videos with the faces of police officers.
In a statement, this NGO noted that other laws with a broad spectrum of coverage have already been shown to “have been abused in France against protesters or human rights observers.” With all certainty, this provision will be submitted to the control of the Constitutional Council.
In his statement, Darmanin did not refer to that article, and emphasized other provisions of the law, in particular those that expand the powers of the municipal police “in accordance with the demands of certain mayors.” They will be authorized, for example, to verify crimes such as drug use or illegal sale on the street.
The new text also gives rise to a greater use of technologies such as the cameras that policemen who patrol in the street can wear in their uniforms or the drones that are increasingly used as a means of surveillance. It also authorizes them to carry their weapons when they are off duty.