French Security Laws Multiply as Emmanuel Macron Tacks Right

French President Emmanuel Macron’s government will unveil a new anti-terrorism draft bill on Wednesday, just days after the fatal stabbing of a police officer by an Islamist extremist. The bill aims to identify suspects before they carry out a attack, and will turn temporary measures into permanent ones. That could include extending a collaboration with telecom companies to review private communications and introducing the use algorithms in online surveillance.

Here’s a look at other law and order initiatives Macron has championed as he tacks to the right — and gears up for a tough election campaign in which far-right leader Marine Le Pen looks set to be his main rival.

The Global Security bill

The controversial bill led to demonstrations last year, despite a ban on public gatherings during the coronavirus epidemic. It aims to protect security forces from online incitement to violence by making it an offense to show the face or identity of any officer on duty, when there’s an attempt to “damage their physical or psychological integrity.”

The bill was criticized by freedom of expression activists and journalists who say it will make holding officers accountable and documenting police violence much harder. Adopted by parliament in April, it’s now pending a review by the Constitutional Court.

The ‘Separatism’ bill

This draft bill was introduced last year, less than two months after the gruesome murder by a jihadist of Samuel Paty, a teacher who’d been discussing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in class. 

While it initially targeted what Macron called communities living on the fringes of French society and political Islam, it is officially intended to “strengthen Republican values.” It’s the pinnacle of the president’s attempt to create a state-sponsored, liberal and “Englightened Islam” and part of his bid to fight radicalization and home-grown terrorism.

The bill includes restrictions on home schooling and bans doctors from issuing virginity certificates. It strengthens controls on religious organizations and their funding, and stipulates that public service contractors must not display religious signs. Critics say it stigmatizes Muslims, and it has led to protests in some Muslim countries.

The right-dominated Senate added restrictions on wearing the veil and other religious signs in public, and tried to ban prayers in universities, but the National Assembly, dominated by Macron’s party, will have the last word on the final legislation.

Wooing Cops

Police have come under strain amid sometimes violent demonstrations against these new bills as well as Macron’s reforms, and have been key in fending off protesters trying to access the Elysee palace. Officers have been demanding greater investment and support from the government.

Macron recently responded in a right-wing newspaper, pledging to deploy 10,000 extra agents by the end of his mandate and to crack down on drugs. The government said around 6,200 officers have already been recruited, a number that the head of the Socialist group at the National Assembly and former budget rapport, Valerie Rabault, said was misleading. Police will also get new cars and new uniforms.

The president said bodycams will help rein in “misconduct.” He denied the existence of “systemic police violence” and “systemic racism in the police,” while acknowledging that some people tend to face more frequent checks because of how they look.

Beefing Up Communications

People close to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin — Macron’s hardline interior minister and an ally of former president Nicolas Sarkozy —  said that police stations will be encouraged to tout their achievements, such as the seizure of drugs, on social media and in local newspapers.

They’ll be able to borrow from Darmanin’s playbook. The minister is extremely active on Twitter, jumping on news bulletins to condemn violence and praise the police.

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