Does France’s Proposed New Security Bill Violate Fundamental Rights?

President Emmanuel Macron of France and members of parliament are currently in the process of passing a new security bill. The National Assembly is debating a bill that is intended to “protect those who protect us” according to the interior minister, Gérald Darmanin. This new bill will make it illegal to share images of police on-duty with the intention of “harming their physical or psychological integrity” according to Aljazeera. The punishment is a year in prison and a maximum fine of 45,000 euro, approximately $53,360. Aljazeera states that this new bill also proposes new laws that legally allow police to use camera-equipped drones and have easier access to CCTV footage.

Though this bill is aimed at creating a sense of security among the police force in France, it has been met with major criticism from the public. Aljazeera states that numerous critics in France warned that this new bill could “undermine the freedom of the press, the public’s right to be informed and growing efforts to stamp out police led-violence.” A professor of public law at the University of Paris Nanterre spoke with Aljazeera and stated this new bill is “a serious infringement of freedom of expression.” Le Monde, a French newspaper also commented on the proposed bill stating it “risks further poisoning the relationship between citizens and police.” The UN Human Rights Council also spoke on this matter, warning of the problems this bill could create, calling for French politicians to not support the passing of this legislation.

For a democratic country like France, it is concerning to see the potential passing of a very oppressive bill. This legislation essentially limits freedom of the press and would make it illegal to photograph and film on duty-police. This comes at a very crucial time when police violence is becoming a growing concern not only in France but across the world, particularly towards racialized and minority groups. The addition of laws that allow police access to camera-equipped drones also pose a privacy concern, ironically something this bill attempts to tackle, but only in regards to those in uniform.

This bill proposal comes after recent attacks on French police according to Aljazeera. This attack refers to an incident that took place in France last month in Champigny-sur-Marne, a suburb in Paris, where 40 people attempted to storm a police station. Police brutality has also been a growing concern in France since 2018. According to Aljazeera, the Council of Europe called French authorities to “show more respect for human rights” last year after witnessing injuries caused by French police while intervening in protests.

The passing of this proposed legislation will hinder France’s efforts towards tackling police brutality and would make it illegal to film police, even when harming civilians or violating their rights. Those in uniform must be protected, but should not be given power and a free pass from following laws already set in place. The French police must be held to the same standard as the rest of the country. Passing this bill would infringe on the right to freedom of press and violate privacy and security rights. French activists and politicians must do everything possible to stop the National Assembly from passing this bill.