Paris Branch protests ‘Global Security’ law
MEMBERS of NUJ Paris Branch joined France's four journalism unions and many civil liberties organisations for demonstrations across France on 28 November against the government's proposed Global Security law and its accompanying schema on public order operations, issued by the Ministry of the Interior in the November.
The law would restrict the right of the public and media workers to report on the actions of the police during "public order" operations. One clause of the proposed legislation would criminalise the publication or sharing via social media of images of police unless any identifying features are blurred out, effectively outlawing live-streaming of events and investigative reporting of abuses by police.
Another clause of the law would allow the use of drones to film citizens in public and permit footage from police body cameras to be live-streamed to the authorities.
The proposed law – condemned by the United Nations - comes in the context of great social tension in France. The gilets jaunes movement has been met by considerable police violence. The proposed Global Security Law is seen as an attempt to stop evidence of police violence getting out in the future.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has stated that journalists covering such public order events should present themselves to their local prefecture to pre-register with the police before going off to cover a protest so they can be "protected".
Darmanin's comments came after two journalists covering protests over the draft Global Security law were arrested. There has been no clear explanation on what happens to those journalists covering such events who do not register before covering public order events, or any comment on how journalists who do register would be expected to behave at such events. The law seems to have the effect of handing over control of journalists covering demonstrations to the police.
Following weekend street protests, EuroNews reported that the French government has decided to "totally rewrite" part of the proposed law. The reported move on Monday 30 November was "interpreted as a climbdown" but we have yet to see details.
Chris Myant, NUJ Paris Branch Chair, reported that several journalists covering the 28 November protests, including at least one NUJ member, had been attacked. "Some have been subjected to violence by police. Others have not been able to identify their aggressors."
NUJ Paris Branch members report routine obstruction - or worse - by police while covering protests. Journalists being shoved around by police on demos is common. Police officers deliberately standing right in the way of cameras to stop photographers and videographers getting a clear shot of the action seems to have become normalised.
Paris Branch has sought assurances from the Ministry of the Interior that the NUJ Press Cards issued in the UK and carried by their Branch members will be recognised as equal in status to the carte de presse issued in France.
This is important not just for covering public order events, but also to identify the holder as travelling on legitimate business when working during France's particularly strict covid lockdown. The response from the Ministry of the Interior on NUJ Press Cards has up to now not been clear, Paris Branch will be pressing the Ministry for a statement on this, on the record.