PARIS – France’s lower house of parliament approved a comprehensive security bill Tuesday, a highly controversial piece of legislation that has been contested by both lawmakers and the general public.
The draft law was passed in the National Assembly with 288 for, 104 against and 66 abstentions.
The text will now move to the Senate in January for examination.
The bill sparked multiple protests last Saturday in Paris and in other major cities throughout France with more protests planned for this Saturday.
The new legislation has been considered controversial as a result of Article 24, which explicitly prohibits and penalizes the taking of photos of police and law enforcement personnel in the line of duty and disseminating those photos in the press. Journalists and photographers have objected to the article and the law in general as a violation of freedom of expression.
Lawmakers have worked on language in the bill that supports law enforcement, specifically including “to protect those who protect us.”
France has been grappling with years of civil unrest through which police brutality has been a consistent issue.
But the controversial part of Article 24 is at the heart of the unrest. Parliamentarians are pressing for one year in prison and a fine of €45,000 (US$53,525) for the dissemination of “the image of the face or of any other identifying element” in order to keep police officers safe in carrying out their duties and preventing those from undermining “their physical and mental integrity.”
The article had gone through three hours of strong debate Tuesday before being adopted by a vote of 146 to 24, according to Le Monde.
After the bill makes its way through parliament, it will be referred to the Constitutional Council. Prime Minister Jean Castex has assured that the inclusion of Article 24 is for the protection of the French as well as for the security forces “with full respect for our democratic freedoms and for the rule of law.”
“I have no doubt that the parliamentary debates which will continue will make it possible to improve it further and to clarify what still deserves to be done,” he added.
Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti also commented on the bill Sunday on BFMTV, saying that “there is no question of prohibiting journalists from filming; we have to find a certain number of balances.”
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