“We’re not Hungarians,” says Macron, denying “intolerant” allegations

© Reuters. French President Macron visits Necker Hospital in Paris

By Michel Rose

PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday denied allegations that his government had taken an illiberal turn with a controversial law to protect police officers and crackdown on Islamist groups.

The bill, which would have restricted the freedom to share images used to identify police officers, a key element in Macron’s plans to condemn right-wing voters by tightening law and order, sparked outrage among journalists.

In an interview on the Brut website via international media in which his police plans were classified as “illiberal”, Macron said: “Today the situation is not satisfactory, but forgive me, that does not make us an authoritarian state.”

“We are not Hungary, Turkey or anything,” he said. “I cannot say that we are reducing freedoms in our country.”

Protests against the plans escalated after video footage was released earlier this month of a black man who was beaten up by three police officers in his own music studio.

Macron said what the three police officers were doing was unacceptable, but that did not mean that the entire force was inherently violent and racist.

Society has also become more violent, Macron said, and police were injured in clashes, including in Paris.

“A police officer was beaten up by protesters there. If you don’t look at society in its entirety, you’re not fair,” Macron said.

Macron said he felt disappointed in Western governments and intellectuals after French teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded by an 18-year-old Muslim for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in class.

Following Paty’s murder, Macron pledged to stand up against attacks on French values, and his government opened investigations into mosques suspected of fueling Islamist ideology – sparking anti-French protests in some Muslim countries and criticism in the West.

“France was attacked for defending freedom of expression,” Macron said. “We were very lonely.”

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