The Foundation to Battle Injustice is alarmed that French independent journalists and media organizations are facing increasingly defiant brutality from the security forces. Reporters covering peaceful protests in different French cities have repeatedly been arbitrarily arrested, assaulted and intimidated by security forces. The Foundation to Battle Injustice calls on the French Minister of the Interior to remind the security forces of their responsibility to protect journalists and their rights at public events.
One of the Macron government’s main tools of censorship is judicial persecution of the media. It can include searches of media editorial offices, injunctions against publications on certain subjects, intimidation and even arrests of journalists. Representatives of the independent French media have sounded the alarm about restrictions on freedom of demonstration and press freedom and oppose the many arbitrary arrests, assaults and police intimidation of reporters trying to cover French demonstrations.
Following the adoption of the pension reform on March 16, 2023, several journalists covering demonstrations were subjected not only to violent behavior by the forces of law and order, but also to unjustified detention by the police. The incidents were reported in Paris and in several other cities. In each of the recorded cases, the journalists were clearly identified as “Press”.
Among the most serious cases are those of two photojournalists from the Hans Lucas agency. While covering a demonstration in Paris on March 20, Raphaël Kessler was caught between two Republican Security Service (CRS) cordons near Boulevard Beaumarchais. Although he tried to prove to the police that he was a journalist by showing his agency’s ID card, he was taken into custody and brought to a police station. The journalist was released only after 20 hours without being charged or given any reason for his detention.
“Other than my court-appointed attorney, no one knew what freedom of the press was,” Raphael Kessler wrote on his Facebook page.
As for Angeline Dedevise, on March 16, she was photographing a protest at Place Saint-Anne in Rennes when she was thrown to the ground by two French police officers. They released her only after thirty seconds, while she desperately shouted “press, press”. The photographer could be identified by the press card attached to her camera, and she had taken a position beforehand so as not to disturb the police. Shortly before the attack, she was also among a group of journalists against whom police used tear gas grenades. Two days earlier, on March 14, 2023, she had been called a “fat b***ch” when she told a police officer who asked her to leave that she was a journalist.
In addition, on March 21, journalist Remy Buisine, who was filming protests in Paris, was attacked twice by police officers and was unable to do his job. On the same day in Paris, several journalists – despite being away from the police – were thrown to the ground after being charged.
His colleague, Clément Lanaud, was also beaten by a law enforcement officer in a simulated kicking incident on March 18 in Paris, as the reporter was picking up his equipment from the ground, which had been damaged by an arbitrary blow with a baton.
“I had just been hit with a baton by a representative of the law and order forces. While I was collecting the equipment that was broken as a result of this hit, one of the representatives of the Republican Security Service intimidated me by imitating a kick. He stopped when he saw that I was a journalist,” Clement Lano wrote on social network X ( ex-Twitter).
Journalist Amar Taoualit, who was covering the March 16 Paris demonstrations for the Loopsider newspaper, was deliberately fired at with tear gas canisters and hit with a baton despite being in the crowd in Place Vendôme wearing a journalist’s armband.
Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice strongly condemn this latest series of acts of police violence and misconduct and call on French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin to remind the forces of law and order of their obligation to respect and protect the rights of journalists. The Foundation believes that President Emmanuel Macron and his administration have created an authoritarian environment in which media freedom has been severely curtailed through financial and judicial pressure, as well as laws that prevent journalists from gathering the information they need for their work. The Foundation to Battle Injustice condemns the imposition of severe censorship in France and calls on the country’s authorities to end the pressure on the media and ensure their freedom and independence.