French rights activists protest new restriction on circulating police officer’s photograph

Masked rights activists and journalists attend a demonstration as French parliament begins to discuss a proposed law that would make it a crime in some circumstances to circulate an image of a police officer's face, in front of the Prefecture in Nantes, France

On Tuesday, French rights activists and journalists protested against a proposed law that would make it a crime, in certain circumstances, to circulate an image of a police officer’s face.

Opponents say the law would infringe journalists’ freedom to report on public events, and make it harder to hold officers accountable if, for example, they use excessive violence while detaining a suspect.

Lawmakers on Tuesday began debating whether to adopt the law, which is backed by President Emmanuel Macron’s party and its parliamentary allies.

Under the proposed law, anyone circulating a police officer’s image with the intention that the officer should be harmed as a result is liable to be jailed for a year and ordered to pay a 45,000 euro ($53,450) fine.

Several hundred protesters gathered outside parliament in central Paris carrying placards saying: “You’ll be deprived of your liberties for your own safety,” and “Stop the law!”

Campaign group Reporters without Borders (RSF) said the proposed law, in its current form, could force broadcasters to pixellate images of police officers’ faces in case those images were later shared on social media by private citizens.

“Lawmakers have in their hands a draft law which could significantly hamper the work of journalists,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement.

Supporters say the planned law does not stop journalists reporting on the actions of police, but is designed to protect officers and their families from being trolled online and harassed or attacked when off duty.

“It’s our police officers who are the first victims,” Eric Ciotti, a lawmaker and one of the authors of the draft, wrote on Twitter. “Let’s protect them.”

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