Thousands of people across France took to the streets to protest and demand a free press after a video of police allegedly beating Black music producer Michel Zecler sparked anger about a draft law that is seen as curbing the right of journalists to report on police brutality. In Paris, protesters set street furniture on fire and clashed with police as they tried to block access to certain streets. In Lille, Rennes, Strasbourg and other cities thousands more protested against the draft bill that makes it a crime to circulate images of police officers in certain circumstances, which some people say limits press freedom.
Shocking images on social media also showed the Bank of France in flames,
Caroline Schatz, who was at the Paris march today, said: “What is happening in Paris is extremely worrying and we cannot let this pass.
“I have spent two years with the yellow vests and I have seen all the violence.”
Many carried placards with slogans like “Who will protect us from the police”, “Stop police violence” and “Democracy bludgeoned”.
A witness tweeted: “PARIS – Street furniture serves as a shield. The police are forced to back down.”
The marches were organised by journalists’ organisations and civil liberty groups and were joined by extreme-left militants, environmental activists and yellow vest protesters, who have been protesting against government policies for two years.
Groups named “black block” also took part, who fought with police and smashed shop windows during the yellow vest protests.
The images of Mr Zecler being beaten were shared widely on social media, as well as both in international and and French press.
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But some human rights organisations have criticised the bill as they say it could limit press freedoms.
They added it could undermine potential abuses of power by the police being held to account.
There have also been complaints that the bill’s wording is too vague.
Amnesty France said in a statement on their website: “If such a law were to enter into force as it stands, it would constitute a serious violation of the right to information, to respect for private life, and to freedom of peaceful assembly, three conditions which are nevertheless essential to the right to freedom of expression.
“This could contribute to a culture of impunity which ultimately damages the image of the police and contributes to undermining the necessary bond of trust between the police and the population.”
Demonstrators in Paris last week said they thought the real purpose of the bill was to stop the media from exposing police brutality.
But Gérald Darmanin, Mr Macron’s interior minister, said this was not true.
He wrote on Twitter: “A journalist or a citizen who films a police operation can of course continue to do so.
“But those who accompany their images with a call for violence while giving out the names and addresses of our police officers will no longer be able to do that”.