The evolution in Mélenchon’s comments about or against the media reflect a steady growth in hostility and vengefulness.
He used insults during the presidential campaign in March 2017, describing a France 5 reporter as a “dirty bastard” and a “dog” and referring to France 2 as the “enemy.” Last December, he called for a “professional tribunal” to deal with “liars, cheats and swindlers” in the media.
Now he has passed from insults to anti-journalist proselytism, describing hatred for journalists in a blog post as “healthy and fair.” He has also described the media as “the first enemy of free speech,” claiming that “the media party (...) injects drugs into people’s brains” and concluding that “media power is above all conspiratorial.”
Mélenchon is now very clearly urging his followers to take action against journalists. “Give them hell wherever you can, because we must get at least some result,” he wrote in a Facebook post on 19 October. “We need in the end to have thousands of people saying that ‘the France Info journalists are liars and cheats,’” he added.
“We have on several occasion in the past had to condemn Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s irresponsible comments about journalists,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“We now put this question to him: What will you say the next time, given your tendency to always keep taking your hatred against journalists to another level? How are you going keep advancing in your anti-journalist guerrilla war? If the simple-minded are inspired by your comments to carry out acts of violence, you will be held responsible.”
The tactic employed by Mélenchon, who ran for president in 2017, is a frontal counter-attack whenever he feels he is being wrong-footed by journalists. Neither new nor completely improvised, his methods are toxic and dangerous.
France is ranked 33rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.