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01.12.2020 Europe

French media: Huge wave of anger forced French government to back down on security law

By Michael Fitzpatrick - RFI
Eric Gaillard/Pool via AP
LISTEN DEC 1, 2020
Eric Gaillard/Pool via AP

A huge wave of public anger has forced the French government to promise to re-draft crucial sections of the controversial security legislation. The French daily newspapers look at what this might mean for the proposed law and for the ruling majority.

Centrist daily Le Monde gives this story pride of place, saying the ruling majority has been forced back to the drawing-board on the controversial Article 24, which concerns the use of photographs of police officers by professional journalists, with Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin getting a sharp telling-off from President Emmanuel Macron.

The President is annoyed
The president is annoyed that he has had to intervene personally in a debate which brought at least 130,000 protestors onto French streets last weekend during the worst health, social and economic crisis the country has ever seen.

Right-wing Le Figaro mentions the ruling party reverse, but focuses on the government's efforts to re-establish confidence between the police and the French public, with Minister Darmanin promising better training for the rank-and-file, and more robust management by senior officers who will be expected to keep their staff in line, especially on the question of race.

Left-leaning Libération says the government has got itself into a useless embarrassment on the legislative front, when the real problem is the way the French police service is mismanaged. Those who look after our security, says Libé, think only in terms of repression. Conflict is therefore inevitable. And the general attitude of a police force managed for keeping us under control means that acts of violence will be perpetrated by individual officers who feel empowered by a conviction that they know how to deal with the problem. And that their stupid violence will be applauded by senior officers.

Catholic La Croix says the three great fissures in French policing concern recruitment, training and management. Which does not leave much. The Catholic daily sees the set-back over Article 24 as a major political defeat for a government which has failed to show a steady hand in these dark days of Covid-fueled crisis. Hence the understandable anger of Emmanuel Macron.

What happens next?
Le Monde suggests that the so-called re-drafting of Article 24 will be used to allow the most contentious parts of the law . . . requiring the blurring of press photos of police officers, no matter what they may be up to, and obliging journalists to demand accreditation from the police before they can cover public demonstrations . . . to be quietly withdrawn and forever forgotten.

Some members of the presidential party in parliament are, however, worried that the government is sending out the wrong signals, yielding to public pressure on the crucial question of security.

And there remains the technical problem that this law has already passed through parliament with Article 24 intact and is now before the Senate. No one has yet come up with an answer to the question of how a re-written version of such a crucial clause can now be dealt with from a constitutional point of view.

No wonder the president is unhappy!

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