FARIAN activists fear the proposed new security law will deprive them of a powerful weapon against abuse – videos of mobile phones for policing – threatening their efforts to document possible cases of police brutality, especially in poor immigrant neighborhoods.
The government of French President Emmanuel Macron is pushing for a new security bill that makes it illegal to publish images of police officers with the intention of harming them, amid other measures. Critics fear the new law could harm press freedom and make it harder for all citizens to report police brutality.
“I was lucky to have videos defending me,”
Two of the officers are in jail while under investigation, while two others, also under investigation, are on bail.
The bill, which is still being debated in parliament, has sparked protests across the country, calling for defenders of press freedom and civil rights activists. Tens of thousands of people marched in Paris on Saturday to reject the measure, including the families and friends of people killed by police.
“For decades, descendants of post-colonial immigration and residents of crowded neighborhoods have condemned police brutality,” Sihame Asbagou, an anti-racism activist, told the Associated Press.
“Public videos have helped show a wider audience that there is a ‘systemic problem with the French police force that is abusing, hitting, beating, mutilating, killing,'” she said.
Activists say the bill could have an even greater impact on people other than journalists, especially those of immigrant backgrounds living in neighborhoods where police relations have long been strained. They argue that images posted online are key to detecting cases of misconduct and racism by officers.
Asbag expressed concern that under the proposed law, those who post videos of police abuse online could face trial, up to a year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($ 53,000).
“I tend to believe that a young Arab man from a poor suburb who publishes a video of police brutality in his neighborhood will be more at risk of being found guilty than a journalist who made a video during a protest,” he said. she.
Amal Bentunsi’s brother, Amin, was shot in the back and killed by a police officer in 2012. The officer was sentenced to five years probation. Along with other families of victims, in March she launched a mobile phone app called Emergency Police Violence to record abuses and file lawsuits.
“Some police officers already have a sense of impunity. … The only solution now is to make videos, “she told the AP. The application has been downloaded more than 50,000 times.
“If we want to improve public confidence in the police, this does not go through hiding the truth,” she added.
The proposed law is partly in response to demands from police unions, who say it will provide greater protection for employees.
Abdullah Kante, a black police officer with 20 years of experience in Paris and its suburbs, is both a supporter of the proposed law and strongly condemns police brutality and violence against employees.
“What people don’t understand is that some people use videos to put the faces of our (police) colleagues on social media so that they can be identified, threatened or hated,” he said. .
“The law does not prohibit journalists or citizens from filming the police in action … It prohibits these images from being used for harm, physically or psychologically,” he argued. “Officers’ lives are important.”
“A small part of the population feeds rage and hatred” against the police Jean-Michel Fauvergue, former head of the elite police force and MP from Macron’s party, who co-authored the bill, said in the National Assembly. “We have to find a solution.”
Justice Minister Eric Dupont-Moretti acknowledged that “intent (harm) is something that is difficult to define” and the government seems ready to support the revision of part of the proposed law.
Activists see the bill as another step in a series of security measures passed by French lawmakers to expand police powers at the expense of civil liberties.
A statement signed by more than 30 groups of families and friends of victims of police abuse said that since 2005, “all security laws passed have continuously expanded the legal field allowing police impunity.”
The riots in 2005 exposed France’s longstanding problems between police and youth in public housing projects with a large immigrant population.
Numerous security laws have been passed in recent years following attacks by extremists.
Critics note that police tactics have hardened during protests or arrests. Hundreds of complaints have been filed against officers during the yellow vest movement against social injustice that erupted in 2018 and saw weekends of violent clashes.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that out of 3 million police operations a year in France, about 9,500 fall on a government website that condemns the abuses, representing 0.3%.
The French human rights ombudsman, Claire Hadden, is among the most vocal critics of the proposed law, which she said included “significant risks of undermining fundamental rights”.
“Our democracy is affected when the population no longer trusts its police,” she told the National Assembly.
AP writer John Lester participates in Le Pecq, France.
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