French interior minister to study RSF proposals for better policing at protests
Two days after launching a review of police methods for controlling street protests, French interior minister Christophe Castaner met with Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on 18 June, promising to study RSF’s proposals for ending police violence against journalists and indicating that part of the new policing strategy would be dedicated to the media.
The RSF delegation expressed deep concern about the many cases of police violence against journalists during the past seven months of “gilets jaunes” (yellow vest) anti-government protests in France and urged the interior minister to send a clear signal to the police. RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire presented Castaner with 10 proposals for improving the policing of demonstrations, for improving relations between police and journalists, for reinforcing disciplinary and judicial responses to abuses, and for providing the police with more appropriate training.
During a frank and constructive meeting at interior ministry headquarters that lasted more than an hour, RSF called for more coordination between police and journalists and suggested that journalists should participate in the training given to the police – a proposal to which the minister seemed open. In response to a request for clearer directives on journalists, Castaner said the new policing strategy should address the issue of the media and that he wanted technical meetings to be organized with journalists as part of the review. He added that a new set of clear instructions could be circulated to the police after the summer, once the new policing strategy had been adopted.
To facilitate the media’s work, RSF proposed creating a mechanism by which journalists and police could liaise with each other both before and during protests. Castaner expressed interest in the proposal, and in any other measures that would help facilitate relations and communication between police and reporters covering protests.
He pointed out that he had already instructed the police to let journalists follow them during protests.
RSF welcomes the interior minister’s decision to launch a review of the way street protests are policed in France and will do its best to ensure that journalists participate in this review, because the level of unwarranted police violence against journalists has reached disturbing levels. A total of 73 journalists have been the victims of unjustified police violence during the “yellow vest” protests, with 12 of them sustaining serious injuries. Although the “yellow vest” protests seem to be winding down, RSF wants rapid and concrete measures from the interior ministry that show it has learned the lesson of recent events.