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PARIS (AP) Thousands took to the streets in Paris and other French cities on Saturday urging civil liberties activists and journalists to protest against a proposed security law that they say would undermine freedom of information and expression. media rights.

The pending legislation in the French parliament would create a new criminal offense for publishing images of police officers in order to cause them harm. Violators will face a maximum sentence of up to one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($ 53,000).

The government says the proposal aims to protect police officers from online calls for violence. Critics fear that, if passed, the measure would jeopardize journalists and other observers taking videos of officers on duty, especially during violent demonstrations.

“In Paris, thousands of demonstrators gathered in Trocadero Square near the Eiffel Tower, chanting Freedom, freedom and everyone wants to film the police.”

Police used water cannons to disperse the crowd as small clashes erupted at the end of the demonstration. Paris police said 23 people were arrested and one officer was slightly injured.

Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International France, the Human Rights League, journalists’ unions and other groups encouraged people to take part in the protest. The crowd included many journalists and students.

“We are not here to defend a privilege of our profession, the freedom of the press and the freedom of journalists,” said Edwy Plenel, co-founder and editor of the investigative site Mediapart. We are here to defend the fundamental rights, the rights of all people.

Several members of the yellow vest anti-government movement also joined the demonstration.

The ombudsman’s office and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and France have also expressed concerns that the new provision could undermine fundamental rights.

In response to the criticism, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday that the measure would be changed to specify that it “would not impede freedom of information and that it would focus only on broadcast images with the clear intention of harming a police officer.” .

Emmanuel Poupard, secretary general of the National Union of Journalists (SNJ), said on Saturday that he thinks the new change does not change anything.

The law on police image has only one purpose: to increase the sense of impunity of law enforcement officers and to make police brutality invisible, he said.

Protesters argue that registering officers in action is essential to being able to condemn and deter the actions of violent officers. They also worry about how the courts would determine if the images were posted with intent to infringe.

In July, three French police officers were charged with murder over the death of a native man, Cedric Chouviat, which passers-by captured on video. Chouviat’s death bore a resemblance to the assassination of George Floyd in the US state of Minneapolis, which sparked worldwide outrage and a series of demonstrations of black life in France.

The proposed bill is backed by lawmakers from President Emmanuel Macrons party, which has a majority in the National Assembly.

Lawmakers are scheduled to vote Tuesday on the bill, which also includes other security measures. He will then go to the Senate.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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