French authorities must drop investigation into environmental photo-journalist
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and several other media associations join in calling on the authorities to drop all proceedings against Yoan Sthul-Jäger, a French freelance photographer, who is being investigated on criminal charges for covering an environmental protest at a cement plant in southern France.
“We support Yoan Sthul-Jäger, a photographer prosecuted for practicing his profession”
The decision to place French photojournalist Yoan Sthul-Jäger under investigation on charges of “damage as part of an organised band” and “criminal association” on 11 July 2023 represents an escalation in the offensive against press freedom and the right to information in France.
Sthul-Jäger, whose photos are posted on the Divergence-Images platform, is being investigated for covering an activist action by a group of environmentalists at the Lafarge cement plant in Bouc-Bel-Air, in the southern department of Bouches-du-Rhône, in December 2022. His photos of the protest were published in many leading French media outlets including Libération, Le Monde, Le Parisien, Le Midi Libre, La Provence and Politis.
On 20 June 2023, he was arrested at his home in Tours at 6 a.m. by police from the Anti-Terrorist Deputy Direction (SDAT), who confiscated his cameras, laptops and digital storage devices, and took him to the nearby city of Orléans, where he remained in police custody for 80 hours.
He was finally released at midday on 23 June with a summons to appear before judicial authorities in the southern city of Aix-en-Provence on 11 July. At the end of the hearing in Aix-en-Provence he was placed under investigation. Meanwhile, his equipment has still not been returned to him, which prevents him from working.
The organisations signing this statement condemn the way the authorities are treating the photo-journalist, who has been covering environmental subjects for years and has documented many actions in the field.
We fully support Yoan Sthul-Jäger, who is being prosecuted for doing his job. Photographing, filming, recording or recounting an activist protest is not a crime, it is journalism! No one should be hunted down and punished for shedding light on a societal event and making citizens aware of it. It is a valuable contribution to a debate in the public interest.
Placing the photographer and journalist under investigation constitutes an extremely disturbing signal for all journalists, in particular, and for democracy, in general, for which the freedom to report information is an essential pillar.
In view of the above, we do not doubt that the proceedings against our colleague will be abandoned, and that the equipment he needs to do his work will be restored without delay.
Paris, 13 September 2023
Hans Lucas (photo agency)
SNJ – National Union of Journalists
SNJ-CGT – National Union of Journalists/General Confederation of Labour
SGJ-FO – General of Union of Journalists
CFDT – French Democratic Labour Confederation
SNAP-CGT - National Union of Visual Artists
CGT – Performing Arts Union
SNP – National Union of Photographers
UPP – Union of Creative Photographers
SCAM – Civil Society of Multimedia Authors
SAIF – Society of Authors of Visual Arts and Still Images
RSF – Reporters Without Borders
Jean-François Leroy cofondateur et directeur de Visa pour l'Image - Perpignan