News

September 23, 2020

French doctrine for policing demonstrations: RSF asks interior minister for guarantees

Gérald Darmanin (photo: AFP/Ludovic Marin).
While recognizing that the new National Law-Enforcement Doctrine has incorporated some of the organisation’s recommendations, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) asks French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin to provide clarifications and guarantees with regard to the document which is a source of concern.

Certain provisions of the new National Law-Enforcement Doctrine published by the French interior ministry on 17 September and known by the French acronym SNMO are a source of concern of RSF and many reporters and photographers who cover demonstrations. To ensure that these rules are not used to restrict the activities of journalists in the field, RSF is asking Darmanin to meet quickly with its representatives and with the representatives of journalists’ organizations.

 

Some of the SNMO’s provisions represent progress. They incorporate some of the recommendations that RSF made in 2019, including recognition of the “special place of journalists in demonstrations”, the need to protect “the right to inform,” the adoption of new mechanisms such as the appointment of a police “liaison officer” responsible for communication with the press during demonstrations, and specific training for the units that police demonstrations.

 

But only those who have a “press card” or “accreditation” seem to be recognized as journalists in the SNMO. RSF therefore asks the interior minister to clearly guarantee that the police will not use this wording as grounds for removing journalists from demonstrations or preventing them from working.

 

RSF points out that, as defined in France’s labour law, working as a journalist does not require a press card and many photographers, documentary filmmakers and media workers do not have one. The detailed procedures spelling out how the regulations are implemented must make it very clear that the lack of a press card may under no circumstances be used to restrict the freedom to cover demonstrations.

 

RSF is also concerned that the SNMO provides no clarification as regards the applicability to journalists of the provision that failing to disperse immediately when ordered constitutes an offence. The SNMO needs additional precisions and guarantees for journalists because of the difficulties of providing proper coverage of demonstrations.  

 

France is ranked 34th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.