Despite its rewriting by the Senate Law Commission on 3 March, article 24 of the "global security" bill remains dangerous for press freedom. As amended, article 24 no longer penalizes the dissemination of photos and videos of police officers or gendarmes with an intent to harm. Instead, it penalizes the new crime of “causing the identification” of police officers or gendarmes with an intent to harm. In other words, causing an action that is not crime is itself a crime if done with a particular intent.
This notion is strange. The new wording does not spell out what constitutes the offence (disseminating photos or videos, or inciting identification) and maintains the vague concept of “psychological integrity*,” previously criticized by RSF.
RSF therefore stands by its position that the Senate should delete this article when it debates the “global security” bill from 16 to 18 March.
“Article 24 continues to be problematic and should be eliminated,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “The obvious danger that we have been pointing out for months, namely the use of this law to limit the freedom of reporters in the field, has not been reduced by these amendments.”
If the article is maintained, RSF says it should be incorporated into the 1881 law on press freedom so that it is subject to the procedural guarantees that journalists rightly enjoy under that law. It has been claimed that journalists would still be protected even if the article were not incorporated into the 1881 law, but this is wrong. They would be exposed to summary trials by courts that are not specialised in media law.
In its current form, as amended by the Senate’s law commission, article 24 of the proposed “global security” bill is incorporated into the penal code, as is article 18 of the draft law on “consolidating respect for the Republic’s principles.” The first version of article 24 envisaged insertion into the 1881 law.
France is ranked 34th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.
*The amended version of article 24 says: “Causing, with the manifest aim of harming their physical or psychological integrity, the identification of an officer of the national police, a member of the national gendarmerie or an officer of the municipal police when they are taking part in a police operation is punishable by five years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros.”