Brussels warns on press freedom as France pushes security law

Brussels: The European Commission on Monday responded to a question about France's draft security law by warning that news media must be able to "work freely".

French journalists and press freedom advocates have protested against the planned law, which would limit the right to film or photograph on-duty police officers.

"The commission does not comment on draft laws, but it goes without saying that in a period of crisis it is more important than ever that journalists must be able to do their jobs freely and in complete safety," EU spokesman Christian Wigand told AFP.

"As is always the case, the commission reserves the right to examine the final legislation in order to verify that it conforms to EU law," he added.

On Friday, the French parliament approved an amended security law, one clause of which would criminalise the publication of images of police officers with the intent of harming their "physical or psychological integrity".

In practice, this law would restrict the publication of photos or videos taken of police officers' faces while carrying out their duties in public spaces, and in many cases an officer's face would have to be blurred.

Media unions say this could give police a green light to prevent journalists from doing their work and potentially documenting abuses by security forces.

Members of protest movements such as the "Yellow Vests" and "Extinction Rebellion" -- who faced a robust police response to street demonstrations -- have also denounced the draft law.    

Article 24 of the draft law foresees a one-year prison term and a 45,000-euro ($54,000) fine for publishing images that officers object to, but officials insist their target is not press freedom.

Instead, police are concerned about social media campaigns that expose individual officers.

Police say they risk great personal threat in the line of duty, and dozens have been injured in clashes with protesters in recent years. - AFP html> ������������������