February 13, 2017 - Updated on February 14, 2017

France: RSF defends French journalists against verbal and physical violence

Political rally near Poitiers on 9 February, 2017 / AFP

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is worried about mounting verbal and physical violence against journalists by politicians and members of the public in recent weeks in France and reminds all concerned that the right to conduct investigative reporting must be respected.

The Republicans party candidate François Fillon and some of his allies and supporters have verbally attacked and jeered journalists at campaign meetings ever since the Canard Enchaîné newspaper and the France 2 “Envoyé Spécial” TV programme reported that Fillon’s wife was paid a great deal for allegedly fictitious work.

During a Fillon campaign meeting in Poitiers on 9 February, former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin got the crowd to boo journalists at length. A few minutes later, Fillon himself lambasted the media and blamed them for his waning electoral fortunes.

The verbal attacks by politicians have fuelled the anger that party activists are showing towards journalists. During another Fillon campaign meeting, an activist likened the reporting of Hugo Clément, a journalist with the TMC news programme “Quotidien,” to the Nazis taking Jews to Auschwitz.

“RSF firmly condemns these attacks on journalist, who must be free to do their job without any threats or constraints, especially during an election period,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU desk.

“This sickening and pernicious climate poses a danger to media freedom, especially when encouraged by senior politicians, who are thereby sending a barely veiled message that any member of the public can attack the media with impunity.”

Paul Larrouturou, another “Quotidien” journalist, was forcibly ejected from an event in Paris 12 days ago by members of the security service used by the National Front when he put an awkward question to the party’s presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen.

Journalists stoned

RSF also condemns acts of violence against journalists during the past weekend in Bobigny. Troublemakers smashed RTL and Europe 1 vehicles during clashes with police at a demonstration on Saturday in support of a young black man who accuses the police of anally raping him with a baton during an identity check.

The next day, a journalist with the BFM TV 24-hour news channel was attacked in Argenteuil.

RSF points out that journalists have an essential role to play as eyewitnesses in the field, helping to ensure fair and impartial coverage of events.

France is ranked 45th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom