France: Deputies urged to remove ban on filming police “with the aim of harming” from bill

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on France’s deputies to strike a controversial ban on photographing or filming police “with the aim of harming” from the government’s “global security” bill when the National Assembly examines the bill in plenary session on 17 November. The proposed ban would threaten press freedom, RSF says.

The bill’s controversial article 24 would ban journalists, media and anyone else from publishing or broadcasting photos or videos of police officers “with the aim of harming their physical or mental integrity”.

The way Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin is interpreting the article clearly violates the principles of press freedom and the public’s right to be informed, RSF says. Speaking on BFMTV on 2 November, he said his promise that it would no longer be possible to disseminate the images of police officers and gendarmes on social media “will be kept because the law will prohibit the dissemination of such images.”

Speaking on France Info on 13 November, he maintained the same ambiguity and referred to his intention to toughen the law, saying inter alia: “If you want to broadcast in an unrestrained manner on the Internet, you will have to pixelate the faces.”

Deputies are examining a bill that could considerably obstruct journalists’ work and undermine their ability to inform our fellow citizens about the behaviour of the police,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We urge the parliamentary majority, especially the deputies of En Marche, to reject this provision in its current form and to make it clear that France must have no ban on filming and disseminating images of police in action except in extremely limited cases.

In its analysis of the bill, RSF had said that, while the risk of journalists being convicted on the basis of its provisions might be limited, the police could easily use it to arrest journalists who were filming them in the field and that this would restrict the right to inform.

RSF had also pointed out that, in the event of a complaint about a photo or video that had been published or broadcast, prosecutors could potentially use the resources at their disposal – including searching the journalist’s home or office and examining their emails and social media accounts – to find comments critical of the police or police violence that could be used to claim an intent to harm and thereby obtain a conviction.

France is ranked 34th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 16.11.2020