Massive protests in France against security bill

PARIS — Thousands of people staged protests in several cities across France against the currently prepared security bill seen by many as a ‘violation of freedom’. Despite the coronavirus restrictions imposed in the country, the largest French cities witnessed a massive demonstration against the bill, Le Monde newspaper said.

The demonstrators chanted slogans against the new law, in light of the new violence case practiced by some place elements that was shaking the country, it added. The demonstrations witnessed some acts of violence and the police fire tear gas , it noted.

The protesters see the new bill aims to undermine the freedom of the press, media and expression. The Article 24 of the prepared law stipulates a one-year prison sentence and a fine of 45,000 euros for broadcasting pictures of police and gendarmes motivated by “bad faiths”.

However, the government affirmed that this article aims at protecting those who are exposed to hate campaigns and calls for killing on social networks.

The debate flared up this week after local media published last Thursday CCTV footage showing three police officers severely beating an African music producer, causing a sensation in the country.

Let Friday, President Emmanuel macron condemned the attack, describing it as “shameful and unacceptable”.

The controversial new bill would ban police images and increase surveillance. The French parliament is currently examining article 24 of the National Security bill, which proposes criminalizing the filming and publication of images of on-duty police officers.

Media groups in France say it could impact journalists covering police operations, while other critics fear it’s intended to dissuade citizens from holding the police accountable.

It came after video images of three police officers beating a black music producer inside his studio in Paris went viral this week, causing an outcry that saw politicians, footballers and millions of social media users express their disgust.

But supporters of the law, above all Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, say it is necessary to protect the identity of law enforcement officers who are at risk of harassment, threats and violence.

On Thursday, French Prime Minister said the government would review the wording of the draft law following the new scandal over police brutality.

In Paris, thousands gathered in the Place de la Republique carrying flags and banners that denounced police violence, demanded media freedom and called for the Interior Minister’s resignation. There were some scuffles between protesters and police in the surrounding streets.

Police say around 3,500 people took to the streets of the French city of Nantes on Friday night to demonstrate. Joint trade unions say the figure was between 6,00-7,000.

Demonstrators carried banners and placards reading “defense of individual and collective freedoms,” “no to the proposal for a comprehensive security law,” and “violence, the last refuge of incompetence,” as well as “not seen, not taken.”

Among the slogans chanted were: “Liberty, liberty, liberty,” and “police everywhere, justice nowhere,” as well as “everyone hates the police.”

In the face of criticism, the government added an amendment to the bill, specifying it “will only target images aimed at harming officers’ physical or psychological integrity.”

After clearing the lower house, the draft security law will now need to be approved by the Senate. Some experts believe it could also face censure from France’s constitutional court. — Agencies

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