Topic: General Studies 2,3:
- Important International Events.
- Security and its challenges
France’s New Security Law
Context: For the second weekend in a row, Paris has been rocked by street protests after the government introduced a controversial security bill in parliament that seeks to provide greater powers and protections for police officers.
What does the proposed law seek to do?
- Ground and air mass surveillance: The proposed “global security” law allow the police and the paramilitary forces to use body cameras and drones to film citizens, and allow the recorded footage to be livestreamed to the command post
- Restricting the filming of police officers: Another provision penalises publishing “the image of the face or any other element of identification” of a police or paramilitary official who is acting in “a police operation”, if the dissemination is done with “the intent of harming their physical or mental integrity”.
What are the opponents of the new law saying?
- Accountability of Police action weakened: Journalists and human rights groups have expressed concern that new law would make it harder to cover public events and record instances of police violence, thus making it more difficult to hold officers accountable.
- Police Excesses will go undetected: Critics have highlighted two instances of police excesses within one week at the end of November that grabbed national attention, which they argue would have been left unreported had the proposed law been in place
- Authoritarian Law: Civil liberties groups and left-wing parties have called the bill authoritarian and unnecessary, insisting that existing laws are sufficient to protect police officers.
- Draconian in character: Its wording has also been criticised as being open-ended, and reporters have worried how the courts would interpret the term “intent of harming”.
- Freedom of Press: The provisions in bill intend to target press freedoms by restricting the coverage of police officers during protests/ clashes.
What have the bill’s supporters said?
- Protecting Police Officers: The new law is aimed at protecting police officers and their families from online trolling and harassment when off duty.
- Support by Citizens: As per a Bloomberg report, a government-commissioned survey found that 58 per cent of respondents backed the new security law.
- Rise of Conservatives as reaction to rising terrorism: Notably, analysts have pointed to a rightward shift of the French electorate supporting such laws that empower police. This shift from liberalism is more pronounced in the aftermath of a spate of recent terror attacks including the October beheading of schoolteacher Samuel Paty, and the Nice stabbing attack.
- Domestic Politics: President Macron has been increasingly trying to appeal to right-wing voters, especially before the Presidential election of early 2022. Laws like these which have tinge of majoritarianism is useful in attracting such voters
- Another controversial legal measure, the so-called “anti-separatism” bill is being proposed by the French Government.
- The bill, which aims to crack down on Islamic radicalism, is to be introduced in Parliament in December, and envisages a range of measures, including school education reforms to ensure Muslim children do not drop out, stricter controls on mosques and preachers, and has caused concern among Muslims in France.
Connecting the dots: