French police obstruct reporters during G7, RSF seeks firm measures
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) wrote today to French interior minister Christophe Castaner to complain about police obstruction of journalists covering the G7 summit in Biarritz from 24 to 26 August and to remind him of President Macron’s promise to ensure that the police respect press freedom.
More than ten French and foreign journalists who went to cover an “alternative summit” in the adjoining town of Bayonne on 24 August were subjected to unwarranted obstruction by the police, who were often very confrontational.
Al Jazeera English crews and others had to endure aggressive and unnecessarily long controls and searches. German reporters said that they were addressed inappropriately. Protective equipment was confiscated from several reporters, including freelance photographers working for the Hans Lucas agency – confiscations that were not recorded in any police reports.
Two women reporters – one working for Reporterre and the other for the Vice News website and the Ouest France newspaper – said they were prevented from accessing the site of a demonstration.
As well as criticizing the behaviour of the police and requesting firm measures, RSF’s letter reminded the interior minister of its ten proposals for ending the kind of police violence against journalists that was seen during France’s “gilets jaunes” (yellow vest) protests – proposals that RSF presented to the interior minister in June.
The way the police behaved towards reporters during the G7 summit suggests that they have yet to be given the necessary instructions about respecting press freedom, although President Macron promised that this would be done when RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire met him on 3 May.
In its letter, RSF said it was still ready to participate in an ongoing review of police methods for controlling street protests, but only if it was given a clear undertaking that measures would be taken quickly to rein in police violence.
When the interior minister received an RSF delegation on 18 June, he asked RSF to take part in this review in order to help ensure that account is taken of the needs of press freedom. RSF remains willing to participate to this review.
France is ranked 32nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.