By Tim Cushing
For reasons only known to legislators who apparently had their ears bent to the point of detachment by law enforcement, the French government — at least briefly — believed the nation would be better secured if citizens weren’t allowed to film police officers and publish those recordings online.
A bill passed through the general assembly that would have made this act a crime.
One of its most controversial elements was Article 24, which sought to criminalise the publication of images of on-duty police officers with the intent of harming their “physical or psychological integrity”.
Under the article, offenders faced sentences of up to a year in jail and fines of 45,000 euros ($53,760) for sharing images of police officers.
This sounds like an effort to prevent doxxing but, given the breadth of the language in the proposed law, it could be read to forbid recording any officer who felt they might be harmed by their actions being documented. And it could be argued (with varying degrees of success) that any publication of images/recording depicting officers in any way they didn’t explicitly approve of is “harmful.”
And the proposal couldn’t have come at a worse time. French law enforcement is facing additional scrutiny after a recording of officers beating a black man surfaced online.
Paris’s top prosecutor has called for four police officers under investigation over the beating of a black music producer to face charges and for three of them to remain in detention as the probe continues.[…]
The three officers suspected of carrying out the beating should remain in custody, he said, while a fourth, who arrived on the scene later and set off a tear gas canister, should be freed under conditions.
With this flame still burning, French legislators tossed this accelerant on the fire. No more documenting police activity because natsec. The citizens responded to this attempted shielding of bad cops as the French often do: with massive protests and a bit of violence.
Tens of thousands of critics of a proposed security law that would restrict the filming of police officers protested across France on Saturday, and officers in Paris who were advised to behave responsibly during the demonstrations repeatedly fired tear gas to disperse rowdy protesters who set fire to France’s central bank and threw paving stones.
Faced with consecutive protests (the one over the beating that rolled into the one over the proposed law), French legislators are backtracking.
France’s national assembly on Monday dropped a key provision of a controversial bill that would have curtailed the right to film police officers during their work.
Christophe Castaner, the head of President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling LREM party, told journalists that the bill will be scrapped and rewritten, with a new version going before parliament.
For the time being, filming the police in France is still legal, even if an officer argues they’ve been harmed by being observed. Unfortunately, the proposal isn’t completely dead. Article 24 will be revamped but it won’t be until early next year. Right now, the bill is too hot to touch. A couple of months in the cooler — and the onset of cooler weather — might temper both protesters and belatedly irate lawmakers. If so, it could reappear mostly unchanged, especially if legislators feel the security of the nation is more important than law enforcement accountability.