The French Senate defends press freedom in the rewrite of the Macron law on security

PARIS, March 4 (Reuters) – A French bill that allegedly undermines the freedom to circulate images identifying police officers has been watered down by senators after violent street protests forced the government to withdraw.

Lawmakers involved in a redesign of the provision said the new wording preserves press freedoms while seeking to protect law enforcement officials from becoming targets of attack.

“We started from a blank page, we completely rewrote the article,” said Senator Marc-Philippe Daubresse of the center-right opposition at a press conference.

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Article 24 of the first draft of President Emmanuel Macron’s “security law” criminalized – punishable by one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($ 54,000) – the dissemination of police images with “a clear intention to harm”.

The provision, said to have been enshrined in France’s 1881 press freedom law, was a key part of Macron’s plans to woo right-wing voters ahead of the 2022 election by being tougher on public order.

But opponents of the article within factions of the president’s own ruling party, the opposition and on the streets, have called it an attack on free speech at a time when public anger is mounting. police violence.

The revised article is no longer enshrined in the 19th century law enshrining a free press and makes no reference to the publication of photographs or videos.

It prohibits the identification of a law enforcement officer or member of military personnel with the intention of causing them physical or psychological harm.

“Article 24 now does not interfere in any way with freedom of the press,” said Daubresse. “It doesn’t talk about images at all. It allows journalists and reporters to film and broadcast conscientiously according to their ethics.”

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin did not react immediately after the new text was made public on Thursday. Interior Ministry officials did not respond to a request for comment.

The Senate, where conservative Republicans hold a majority, will debate the new text later this month before it goes to a committee of lower and upper house lawmakers.

If the committee agrees on the amended bill, it will be adopted without a second vote in the National Assembly.

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Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Written by Richard Lough; Editing by Toby Chopra

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