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French government drops draft law curbing filming of police

The French government has dropped a controversial security bill that would have curbed the right to film police officers in action after growing opposition and mass protests against it.

“The bill will be completely rewritten and a new version will be submitted,” Christophe Castaner, head of President Emmanuel Macron’s governing party in the French parliament, told a news conference on Monday.

Tens of thousands of people in cities across France marched against the draft law on Saturday, with dozens wounded during clashes with police in Paris.

The proposed legislation was passed by the National Assembly earlier in November, though it still required approval from the Senate.

One of its most controversial elements has been Article 24, which sought to criminalise the publication of images of on-duty police officers with the intent of harming their “physical or psychological integrity”.

Under the article, offenders faced sentences of up to a year in jail and fines of 45,000 euros ($53,760) for sharing images of police officers.

Protesters called for the article to be withdrawn, claiming that it contradicts “the fundamental public freedoms of our Republic”.

Media unions also said it could give police a green light to prevent journalists – and social media users – from documenting abuses.

The controversy was intensified by a video showing the beating and racial abuse of a Black man last week.

The case of Michel Zecler shocked France, with celebrities and politicians alike condemning the officers’ actions.

Macron on Friday called the incident an “unacceptable attack” and asked the government to come up with proposals to “fight against discrimination”.

The images of the beating of Zecler emerged days after police were already under fire over the forcible removal of a migrant camp in central Paris, where journalists on the ground recorded police brutality.

On Monday, a Paris investigating magistrate charged four police officers with assault by a person holding public authority in connection to the assault on Zecler. Three were also charged with fabricating their statement on the incident.

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