A sister to the campaign for Modern Liberty is born in France

The French sister of the Labour Party, the opposition Parti Socialiste, has launched its Spring campaign, featuring public liberty as its theme. Following the recent ‘Convention on Modern Liberty‘, this is further sign that opposition to creeping attacks on liberty is an issue across Europe.

The approach is different and some of the initiatives opposed are specific to each country. The foremost shared concern is surveillance and the right to privacy. DNA databases are growing in both France and the UK. The role of the media, raised recently by parliament, has been the subject of controversial, possibly authoritarian, legislation in France. I blogged previously on EU information-sharing agreements. There is much to suggest that as assaults on liberties are occurring across Europe, responses should be similarly coordinated and prioritised across that area.

Here is a translation of the campaign’s press release:

Press launch for ‘Campaign for Public Liberty’

On Wednesday 11th March, a press conference was held to launch a socialist offernsive against attacks on public freedoms. A chance to present ‘France’s Freedoms under Surveillance’, the reference work of this citizens’ initiative, and to come back to the issues at stake in this essential combat. The speakers were Martine Aubry, First Secretary of the PS [Socialist Party];Marie-Pierre de la Gontrie, National Secretary for Public Liberty and Broadcasting and Pascale Boistard, National Secretary for Organisation.

The Socialist Party’s First Secretary gave a clear reminder of the issues in this citizen’s initiative: liberties are being withdrawn, whether in justice, the media or the role of opposition. So we have to fight to preserve our individual and collective rights. That is the sense of our initiative: to build an “ordered society, one that is serene, tolerant, open.”

The book we are presenting today, ‘France’s Freedoms under Surveillance’, is not a pamphlet. It is a cold analysis of the acts and legal decisions that come from the policies held by the government and the president of the Republic in all areas of freedoms.

France is not doing well, economically or socially. The government and Nicolas Sarkozy are busy giving speeches, but less so in follow-up actions. At the same time, the legislation is piling up – not to limit financial excess, for example, but to restrain freedoms.

On the one hand, you have a government whose ideology is not to take decisions – it refuses to abandon the Budget amidst economic failure, under the ‘president of spending power’.[elected on a promise to cut the cost of living]. On the other, restrictions on freedoms mean that those who wish to express their discontent, will do so less in future.

The Socialists are for a France that lives in safety, in harmony, that doesn’t just look at it’s neighbour in the corner, but helps him, with neither suspicion nor judgement. When you read overseas media, you’re struck by the concerned attitude towards the French situation.

This is a cold analysis then, strengthened by organisations already working on the subjects, but on a specialised or scattered basis. It’s a factual document, not a polemic, accurate on the reality of events and an inventory of the situation. To follow its evolution, we have created a blog.

Illustrating these restrictions on freedoms:

  • In justice, placing limits on the powers of judges, and by raising minimum sentences;[powers relating to whether a trial proceeds, in the UK similar to those held by the PPS]

  • In media, we have stated our opinion on the broadcasting law reform [a wide reform including the abolition of advertising on public TV and bringing appointment of the Chief Executive close to presidential control];

  • In opposition: the limitations on parliamentary amendments symbolise wider restrictions on freedom.

Then there is the eye on those who are different: in immigration, on which we fix a figure, thinking that enough to solve the problems,; in unemployment, for which we get nothing but figures: more population databasing. It’s not a good time to be a senior civil servant either [a departmental police chief was removed after the president was jeered on arrival in his area].

And many more are being added to the list of restrictions on liberty. I recall that in 2008, 1% of the population had been held in preventative detention, that the number of files being kept, and their content, were constantly increasing.

Where is France, the nation of human rights?

We wanted to play our role as a party with something to say, to accompany all those in opposition (NGOs, media, social movements, professionals…).

Today, inequality is spreading and freedom being limited.

On the 22nd March, we will reunite our dear France for debate and proposals; to say that is not the France we want.

Reading this book, you worry because it is clear that we don’t know everything. We are not for standing by, but for a society of order, but with justice to create an structured society: serene, tolerant, open.

The book was edited by National Secretary for Public Freedom and Broadcasting, Marie-Pierre de la Gontrie. It lists 89 items representing liberties. Its presentation, figures, sources and quotes are rigorous. We await the arguments against it with interest. Over time, as the information becomes more complete we can, in the mass, identify a clear policy: the implementation of a society under surveillance and control, a society of repression.

It is a reference work for a citizens’ movement, working alongside those movements already reacting.



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