French police asked to respect press freedom during Yellow Vest protests
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the French police to respect the basic press freedom rules during the next “Gilets Jaunes” (Yellow Vest) protests tomorrow and again on May Day (1 May). More than 80 journalists have been the victims of police violence since the weekly anti-government Yellow Vest protests began last November.
The level of violence to which journalists have been exposed at these protests has been unprecedented. When RSF unveiled its 2019 World Press Freedom Index a week ago, the number cases of police violence against journalists since the start of the protests stood at 62, according to David Dufresne, a journalist who monitors and reports these incidents on Twitter. But during the latest day of protests on 20 April – the 23rd weekly Yellow Vest protests – no fewer than 17 new cases of police violence were registered, according to the tally posted on the Allô Place Beauvau website.
Whether or not they are professional journalists and whether or not they have press cards, reporters – mainly photographers and video reporters – have repeatedly had stun grenades and flashball rounds fired at them while covering these protests, despite being clearly identifiable by their helmets and “Press” armbands.
The 20 April protests were also marked by the arrests of two freelancers, Gaspard Glanz, the founder of the Taranis News website, and Alexis Kraland. Glanz’s heavy-handed arrest and the decision to hold him for 48 hours were not justified by his inappropriate gesture towards the policeman who had just given him a violent push. Similarly, the decision to ban Glanz from covering the next protests is disproportionate and constitutes obstruction of the right to report.
“The many cases of police violence towards journalists is quite simply chilling,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “It is especially disturbing to see the security forces trampling on the freedom to inform in this manner. On the eve of further protests, we urge them to respect the basic rules of press freedom.”
The latest cases of violence against journalists in France came just two days after RSF published its 2019 World Press Freedom Index, in which France is now ranked 32nd out of 180 countries.