France Drops Plan to Ban Photos of Patrolling Police Amid Uproar

France Drops Plan to Ban Photos of Patrolling Police Amid Uproar

The French government has withdrawn a plan to ban netizens from sharing and uploading images of police officers after being met with public outcry.

Over the weekend, more than 130,000 people in favor of free speech took to the streets to protest against the government’s draft bill banning the public sharing of images of French authorities. Of the number, over 46,000 protested in the country’s capital.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party had filed for a bill seeking to make illegal the public sharing of photos of police officers with the intent to cause them harm. Doing so would get a violator to face a year in prison and pay a 45,000-euro fine.

The bill came after footage of three police officers beating black music producer Michel Zecler in his own studio earlier this month.

The video has drawn international criticism and Macron said that the footage was “shameful” for France.

“We acknowledge that there are doubts, that some people consider that the right to information is under threat… That is why it is necessary to clarify it,” said Christopher Castaner, head of Macron’s Republic on the Move party in the lower house parliament, of the bill.

“We propose a new version of article 24 and a new version will be submitted,” he added.

According to reports from Agence-France Presse and France Info, four police officers linked to the incident are now under formal investigation. Two of the officers were placed in custody while the remaining two were under judicial control.

On Sunday, Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz was quoted as saying that the officers may be charged for using racist language and intentional violence with weapons.

The government’s own independent ombudsman on human rights as well as French journalists said that the draft bill was too vague and could have a chilling effect on people wanting to expose police brutality.

“Our democracy is hit when the population does not trust its police anymore,” Human Rights Ombudsman Claire Hedon was quoted as telling the National Assembly.

A new version of Article 24 will be resubmitted but the exact date was yet to be known. The bill has been approved on final reading by the lower chamber and has now been endorsed to the upper house where the conservatives have a majority.

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