President Emmanuel Macron on Friday denied claims that freedoms are being eroded in France under his rule as a “big lie”, with controversy intensifying over a new security law.
“I cannot let it be said that we are reducing freedoms in France,” Macron told the online news portal Brut in a televised interview, complaining that France had been “caricatured” in the debate over the security legislation.
Striking criticism of Macron appeared in international media after he announced a crackdown on radical Islam and his government tried to push through a security bill that would restrict the publication of images of police.
“It’s a big lie. We are not Hungary or Turkey,” he added, hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had called Macron “trouble” and urged the French to “get rid” of him as soon as possible.
But Macron insisted he was not singling out Muslims, rather simply defending the country’s secular system.
Some commentaries in English-language media have accused Macron of targeting all Muslims following a spate of attacks in the last weeks blamed on radical Islamists.
“France has no problem with Islam… we are a country that has always had a dialogue.”
Bur he emphasized: “We founded our Republic on the separation of politics and religion.”
Refusing to be drawn into Erdogan’s latest personal attack on him, Macron said: “I believe in respect… I think invective between political leaders is not a good method.”
Social tensions over the security law soared after the police beating of black music producer Michel Zecler which resulted in four police being charged and fed into sometimes violent protests in Paris last weekend.
Macron acknowledged “there are police who are violent” and insisted that “they need to be punished”.
He acknowledged that “when you have a skin colour that is not white, you are controlled much more (by police). You are identified as a problem factor. And that cannot be justified.”
But he also lashed out at the violence against police at last weekend’s rally in Paris, which he blamed on “crazy people”.
Macron’s interview with Brut, a video-based news portal aimed at young people, is seen as an attempt by the president to win credibility with youth particularly concerned by the actions of French police.
Lawmakers from Macron’s ruling LREM party said on Monday they would propose a “complete rewrite” of part of the draft security law.