FRENCH riot police have been condemned over violently dispersing protesters in Paris demonstrating against a new security bill (the PPL Securite Globale) which bans the ‘making or sharing’ of footage of police officers.
On the StopLoiSecuriteGlobale twitter feed, Peter Ramsay posted a video showing riot police laying into Parisians, with the comment: ‘Film of Macron’s thugs attacking protesters against a new law that will make it illegal to film Macron’s thugs attacking protesters.’
Several thousand people marched in French cities on Saturday November 21st with the largest demonstration at the Trocadero Square near the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Journalist groups, as well as the Yellow Vest and Extinction Rebellion movements, and demonstrators waving flags of the Communist and Green parties attended the protests.
Edwy Plenel, chief editor of the investigative news website Mediapart, said the proposed legislation was a ‘green light for the worst elements in the police.’
He said: ‘Those in power are increasingly trying to prevent citizens, journalists and whistleblowers from revealing the failures of the state. When this happens, democracy fades away.
‘We are not here to defend a privilege of our profession, press freedom and journalists’ freedom. We are here to defend fundamental rights, the rights of all people.’
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and France’s human rights ombudsman, have also voiced concerns that the draft law could undermine fundamental rights.
In response to widespread criticism, Prime Minister Jean Castex said last Thursday that the measure would be amended to specify that it ‘won’t impede the freedom of information’ and that it will focus only on images broadcast with ‘clear’ intent to harm a police officer.
But Emmanuel Poupard, secretary-general of the National Journalists Union (SNJ), said the new amendment still ‘doesn’t change anything.’
The law ‘has only one goal: to boost the sense of impunity of law enforcement officers and make invisible police brutality,’ Poupard stressed.
‘Freedom of the press is a fundamental right’, Poupard told Saturday’s rally against the ‘Sécurité Globale’ law in Paris.
The union announced last Friday: ‘Marseille, Lille, Montpellier, Rouen, Niort, Brest, Poitiers, Le Havre, Limoges, Dunkirk, Annecy or even Auxerre and Saint-Etienne. Gatherings are being organised this Saturday, November 21 throughout the national territory to say Stop the Global Security Law, and this after the successful mobilisation of November 17 at the call of the general coordination made up of journalists’ unions, defence organisations human rights, NGOs, journalists’ companies, associations and collectives.’
The journalists union leader told the Paris crowd: ‘This bill, debated since Tuesday in the National Assembly, aims to restrict freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom to inform and to be informed.
‘It is an unprecedented decline in our public and fundamental freedoms in France!
‘The amendment to section 24 does not change that. The text as voted on remains unacceptable. It has only one objective: to strengthen the feeling of impunity of the police and to make police violence invisible.
‘The contradictory statements of Minister Darmanin have lifted the veil on the true intentions of this government. The point is to muzzle the press!
‘This bill comes as the Ministry of the Interior has put in place the new national law enforcement plan. There is a clear attempt by the Home Office to hold journalists’ pens, microphones, or images.
‘The intention is clear: to bring journalists in line!
‘The provisions of this bill will dry up newsrooms, cut journalists off from their sources and necessarily force journalists to censor themselves.
‘Our fears are confirmed by Claire Hédon, Defender of Rights, as well as three special rapporteurs on human rights at the UN. France is violating international law.
‘For more than six months, alerts have been filed on the Europe platform for the protection and safety of journalists. For more than six months, France has not responded to any of these alerts.
The profession, which is sometimes said to be difficult to mobilise, has risen to oppose the accreditations of journalists covering demonstrations on the public highway. Publishers and news directors have also called on the authorities to defend press freedom.
‘The Sydicat National des Journalistes, the profession’s leading organisation, thanks all the citizens, associations and unions, who are mobilised by our side.
‘Freedom of the press is not a privilege of journalists but a fundamental right, one of the most precious assets of democracy.
‘The SNJ calls on the editorial staff to rise up against the bill by inviting them to lead a viral campaign on social networks, alerting their management and to get closer to local coordination to oppose this text.
‘It is the responsibility of the public authorities to guarantee the freedom of expression of citizens and in particular the right of journalists to inform, reveal, comment, criticise, caricature.
‘Together, let’s bring down the Global Security law!
‘Long live freedom of speech!
‘Long live the freedom of the press!’
- IndustriALL Global Union’s French energy sector affiliates will come together for a day of action tomorrow (26 November 2020) to oppose policies that threaten the future of their sector, and the restructuring plans of the multinational companies EDF and ENGIE.
French energy multinationals EDF and ENERGIE have announced restructuring plans which unions believe will threaten jobs and the security of the energy supply, and surrender the future of energy to the private sector.
In a joint statement, the French unions stressed the importance of the public service ethic by reminding the company of the dedication and professionalism of staff who maintained the electricity supply throughout the coronavirus lockdown.
The statement called the forced liberalisation of the electricity market ‘madness’, saying that the French government risks destroying a formidable asset.
The four unions – FNME-CGT, CFE-CGC Énergies, FCE-CFDT and FO Énergies et Mines – believe that plans for the unbundling and privatisation of renewables shows a lack of commitment to energy futures at a time when the state should be playing a leading role in managing a Just Transition to a low carbon future. This future must include quality jobs as well as a reliable supply of energy.
The unions are united in their opposition to the restructuring plans, which will affect not only workers and the public in France, but company employees around the world.
IndustriALL has global framework agreements with both companies. The unions expressed their concerns about jobs, and that the companies will lose their leading role in driving the energy transition by surrendering energy futures to the market.
EDF is a largely state-owned company that employs 165,000 people around the world. Unions are fighting French government plans to restructure and partly privatise the company.
The government plans to split EDF into three separate entities, named green, blue and azure.
The less profitable blue part of the company will remain in the public sector, while the green part, which includes renewables, will be listed on the stock exchange. A third part, azure, will cover hydroelectricity.
ENGIE is a private company that employs around 70,000 people globally. The French state is the biggest shareholder, with almost a quarter of the company’s stock, and is very influential. The company plans to split into two entities, New ENGIE and NEW Solutions.
The unions will take a joint day of action tomorrow, 26 November to oppose the restructuring and defend the public sector model.
In a solidarity letter to the affiliates, IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches said: ‘Energy is a public good and a strategic sector. There can be no strong and sustainable economy without energy independence and infrastructure development. Splitting the energy activities of large integrated groups into sub-divisions, such as at EDF and ENGIE, will lead to the progressive dismantling of the energy giants.
‘Access to energy, security of supply and favourable energy prices directly contributes to industrial growth and the creation of sustainable jobs. At a time of major energy challenges, when the world must ensure the integrity of its supply while managing a Just Transition to a low-carbon economy, it is unacceptable to endanger the capacities for development, investment and innovation of EDF and ENGIE.’
- Meanwhile, Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) global union federation is calling on French authorities to leave no stone unturned in their investigation of leaked liquid into Paris’ Seine River from a plant belonging to Franco-Swiss cement giant LafargeHolcim, which has sparked public outrage.
Since September, the French media has reported that hundreds of litres of toxic wastewater have been spilled into the river, composed of a mixture of cement, wastewater treatment liquid and plastic microfibres.
BWI said that if it is proven that the leak was intentional, LafargeHolcim has violated the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development. It called on the company to drastically improve its risk management processes and protocols, which have been proven to be wanting in other parts of the world, such as Nigeria.
The toxic spillage was first reported in August 2020 at LafargeHolcim’s concrete power plant located on the docks in the south-east of the city. This prompted the Paris prosecutor’s office to conduct an investigation. The Minister of Ecological Transition indicated that those responsible will be prosecuted.
While LafargeHolcim acknowledged the spillage, it insisted that it had been a victim of sabotage. BWI said that this statement is reminiscent of a similar case in April 2019 when the company was again accused of deliberately releasing cement into the waters of the Seine.
The company shifted the blame onto the Vinci Construction Group, which admitted to the ‘involuntary flow’ and was fined just 50,000 euros.