French MPs prepare final vote on contentious bill to restrict images of police

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France’s National Assembly is to vote Thursday on the final version of a security bill that sparked heated opposition over a proposal to limit online publication of images of police officers. Lawmakers have revised the proposal but critics still want it to be scrapped.

Criticised by left-wing parties, human rights groups and journalists but lauded by most police unions, France’s proposed “global security” law, a bundle of legislation that would expand the measures at the disposal of security forces, will go to a final parliamentary vote on Thursday.

The vote does not mean it will be on track to abrogation, as human rights groups are already saying they will challenge it at the Constitutional Council.

The bill has been most controversial for its Article 24, earlier versions of which proposed to alter press freedom laws to place limits on the online publication of images of on-duty police officers with the intent to do them harm.

Reworked article

The government withdrew the article at the height of a heated protest campaign last autumn, but subsequent revisions of the bill have seen it restored a reworked version.

The right-wing majority Senate reworked the measure last month so it would no longer alter press freedom laws or refer to online images, but rather create a criminal offence of “identification for provocation” for the use of images deemed to be meant to harm officers.

Critics of the bill also object to proposals that would regulate police use of drones, allow police to film interventions, allow officers to carry weapons when off duty and create a municipal police force for Paris.

Protest movement

Opposition to the bill drew tens and then hundreds of thousands of people to weekly protest rallies last year.

The movement culminated in a week that saw publication of images of police assaulting a rap producer in his Paris recording studio, with marches that drew between 133,000 and 500,000 people nationwide in late November.

The collective of trade unions, journalists and civil liberties groups that organised the marches renewed their calls for the bill to be scrapped this week.