The speaker of French President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party has said the government is dropping part of the controversial bill curbing the right to film on-duty police, which drew huge public anger. The government leader said that the bill will be re-drafted.
Christophe Castaner, president of La Republique en Marche in the National Assembly, told the press on Monday that the government recognized “misunderstanding” around article 24 of the global security bill.
Castaner said article 24, which prohibits the filming of on-duty police officers, of the law on comprehensive security would be removed and rewritten for future submission.
“It is because we are resolved to protect our police forces and to do so without ambiguity, but also to remove doubts and misunderstandings […] that we are therefore going to propose a complete new wording of Article 24,” Christophe Castaner, the leader of Macron’s La Republique En Marche! party in parliament, told a press conference.
Castaner did not specify how Article 24, which would penalize the dissemination of images of policemen with the intent to cause them harm, might be rewritten.
Demonstrations have taken place across France over the past week against the so-called “global security law,” which also includes controversial provisions that critics say would expand the state’s right to monitor its citizens.
There is also opposition to the so-called “New National Policing Scheme,” announced in September by Minister of Interior Gerald Darmanin, which requires journalists to disperse during demonstrations when ordered to do so by the police, thus preventing them from covering the aftermath of protests in real time, which in recent years have often been stormy.
More than 100 local elected officials from the Paris region announced their participation in a protest on Saturday via a public forum in French weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.
The protests marked the end of a tense week that saw two major incidents of police violence, just as the law was being reviewed by France’s lower chamber, the National Assembly.
The bill was adopted by the National Assembly on Tuesday and was due to be put to a vote in the Senate early next year.
The legislation was given the green light by the French parliament last Tuesday, when France’s lower house backed the complete global security bill by a majority of 388 votes to 104, with 66 abstentions.
The government has come under considerable pressure over the inclusion of article 24 within the new proposed security law, and had sought to assure people and bodies, including the European Commission – that the bill would not impact press freedoms.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin had previously claimed that the aim of the article is to “protect those who protect us.”
Under the bill, sharing images of on-duty cops “with the aim or harming their physical or psychological integrity” would become punishable with a year’s imprisonment and a maximum €45,000 ($53,360) fine, raising concerns it could be used to hamper freedom of the press and conceal incidents of police brutality.
“Article 24 would not have had any impact on the images we have seen in recent days,” Castaner said on Monday, in reference to incidents of heavy-handed policing caught on camera over the last week. One of the most widely-shared was the brutal arrest of a music producer in Paris last Saturday, during which police forced themselves into his studio and fired tear gas.
The draft bill has been the cause of substantial unrest and multiple protests throughout November, which intensified after footage of the producer being beaten by French cops went viral.
On Saturday, a reported 46,000 people took to the streets in Paris to demonstrate their opposition to the proposed law. Protesters lit fires across the city and violently clashed with police.