Mass protests force Emmanuel Macron to withdraw bill that criminalises filming police

The government of France dropped a controversial security bill that would have curbed the right to film police officers in action after growing opposition and mass protests against it.

“The bill will be completely rewritten and a new version will be submitted,” Christophe Castaner, head of President Emmanuel Macron’s governing party in the French parliament said on Monday.

Tens of thousands of people in cities across France marched against the draft law on Saturday, with dozens wounded during clashes with police in Paris.

The proposed legislation was passed by the National Assembly earlier in November, though it still required approval from the Senate.

One of its most controversial elements has been Article 24, which sought to criminalise the publication of images of on-duty police officers with the intent of harming their “physical or psychological integrity”.

The legislature makes sharing images of on-duty police punishable with up to a year in prison and a maximum USD$ 53,360 fine.

Other proposed measures include allowing police to use camera-equipped drones and easier access to CCTV footage.

Opponents to the draft law say the measure would infringe journalists’ freedom to report, while supporters say police officers and their families need protection from harassment, both online and in person when off duty.

Opponents say the bill undermines press freedom to document police brutality. But the government says it will help protect officers from online abuse.

French police have been taken to task in recent years for alleged brutality meted out to protesters and criminal suspects, especially those from Black, Arab or other minorities.

The United Nations Human Rights Council had also made an extraordinary intervention to critique the bill and called for French politicians to not support it.