On March 18, 2021, the French Senate passed Article 25, a ‘security measure’ allowing off-duty police officers to concealed carry of their police-issue firearms in public. Article 25 also states that police who carry may not be refused access to museums, cinemas, shopping centers and schools – places France deems ‘open to the public.’
Denis Jacob, Secretary-General of Alternative Police, says opposition to Article 25 are disingenuous and a ‘false debate.’
“Since 2016, police officers have been going to public places with a hidden firearm in a holster or a bag in the summertime and it’s never been a problem. On the contrary, it is an additional security guarantee to know that police officers and gendarmes can intervene in case of an attack,” he said.
One of the more contentious portions of Article 25 is its protection of off-duty police officers from having their photographs published if it might “harm the physical or mental integrity” of those police officers.
It is now a criminal offence for a person to photograph police and post the image to social media or distribute elsewhere. If found guilty of this new criminal offence, punishment is one year in prison and a fine of up to €45,000.
“The bill will not jeopardise in any way the rights of journalists or ordinary citizens to inform the public,” Alice Thourot, co-author of the controversial clause, told French daily Le Figaro.
“The bill will not jeopardise in any way the rights of journalists or ordinary citizens to inform the public,” Thourot stated.
The new law only “outlaws any calls for violence or reprisals against police officers on social media,” she added.
Politicians tend to offer these types excuses when the laws they write specifically permit such abuses, so it’s no surprise that French media and human rights organisations are fighting back against this scuttling of their right to film police.
Adding fuel to the flames, Gerald Darmanin, France’s interior minister, told the media that journalists should declare themselves to authorities “to make themselves known, to be protected by the police… to do their work as journalists during protests.”
This would amount to the requirement for journalists to seek government permission to do their jobs – a condition no journalist in their right mind would accept.
Surprised by the pushback, Darmanin backpedalled and claimed both members of the public and journalists could still “film and broadcast” images of police officers without “blurring their faces’ – while claiming the law only intends to target those who share images of police officers with comments “intended to harm” or incite violence against police.
Before the final vote on Article 24, the French government amended the law so it “will only target the dissemination of images clearly aimed at harming a police officer’s or soldier’s physical or psychological integrity.”
There is still a ton of room for misapplication of this law and, as we’ve seen around the world, governments will always use poorly written laws to benefit themselves and their lust for power.
“It is a freedom-killing law that would threaten freedom of expression, the right to demonstrate and the right to privacy,” said Anne-Sophie Simpère, an activist for Amnesty International France.
As we’ve seen here in Canada, the government is happy to toss our rights away for the slightest of reasons.
Protests of a certain political persuasion are permitted and even given the blessing of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Others, such as those opposing endless life and liberty-killing lockdowns, are banned through public health orders issued by dictatorial health officers.
There is little reason and even less evidence to believe the French government will behave differently than its Canadian counterpart.