The exact circumstances of the physical attack on Christian Lantenois of the local newspaper L’Union-L’Ardenais have not yet been determined but the police are treating it as a murder attempt.
Lantenois and a woman reporter with the same newspaper decided to go to this residential neighbourhood with an estimated 25,000 inhabitants after reports of “acute tension” in the area, which has a high crime rate, according to the police.
The woman reporter went in an unmarked car but Lantenois drove there in a car bearing the newspaper’s name. It is not known how many people attacked him. The newspaper simply reported that he was found badly injured beside his car. He was rushed to a hospital where his condition on Sunday 28 February is described as stable but extremely worrying.
“The violence unleashed against Christian Lantenois precisely because he was a journalist must not go unpunished, because it violates our republican principles and the foundations of our democratic society,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We express our full support for his family and friends and all of his colleagues and we undertake, with them, to ensure that the perpetrators of this despicable and appalling attack are quickly identified and duly prosecuted.”
In a statement L’Union-L’Ardenais said: “This attack was not a chance occurrence. The newspaper’s car was identified and the camera was smashed. This journalist was clearly targeted. Nothing and no one can limit our determination to inform the public, nor our freedom to act and to report the news. Not covering this story would have meant denying that violence is a reality for this neighbourhood’s 25,000 residents."
Lantenois has been covering football and other sports as well as general news for the newspaper for many years.
France is ranked 34th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.