News footage of police storming Jewish supermarket in Paris could have put police and public at risk

A screengrab taken from an AFP TV video showing members of the French police special forces launching the assault at a kosher grocery store in Porte de Vincennes, eastern Paris, on Jan 9, 2015.
A screengrab taken from an AFP TV video showing members of the French police special forces launching the assault at a kosher grocery store in Porte de Vincennes, eastern Paris, on Jan 9, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - On Jan 9, 2015, a gunman burst into the Hyper Cacher Jewish supermarket in Paris, opening fire and killing four people.

Taking several shoppers hostage, Amedy Coulibaly threatened to kill them if the police stormed the printing shop where his friends - the two brothers behind the fatal attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo - were holed up in a village to the north.

News footage showed dozens of heavily armed police officers gathered outside the deli's entrances.

While the police eventually raided the deli and killed Coulibaly, the live broadcasts could have compromised the efforts of the French police.

This point was noted by Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Tuesday (Feb 27), as it proposed a new Bill to empower the police to make a communications stop order - requiring people to stop taking or sending pictures and videos of an incident area.

If the stop order is issued - with the Home Affairs Minister's authorisation - people will have to stop communicating text or audio messages about ongoing security operations in the area as well.

These are among features of the new Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Bill, introduced in Parliament on Tuesday (Feb 27) for its first reading.

"This is a special power which would only be used when the security situation calls for it," stressed the MHA in a statement.

 

It added: "In the January 2015 attack on the Hyper Cacher Deli in Paris, the terrorist who was holding several hostages... was able to watch live television broadcasts showing police officers outside preparing to storm (it)."

This was one of two incidents MHA cited in emphasising that the leaking of information on police tactical operations to terrorists could endanger security officers and members of the public caught in an attack.

The other was the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, in which live media broadcast of security forces preparing to storm the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel allowed gunmen within to anticipate the actions of security forces, said MHA.

It added: "There is no doubt that the information available to the terrorists made the police operation more difficult, reduced the chances of a successful operation, and put the safety of the officers and hostages at greater risk."