Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is very concerned about a surge in unlawful police violence against journalists covering protests against the government’s labour reform law and calls on France’s highest authorities to put a stop to the attacks.
Some journalists say wearing a press armband turns them into a target of police violence. The volume of photo and video evidence supporting these claims is growing on social networks.
Video cameraman Joël Labat has posted footage on the Reporterre website showing how a teargas grenade was fired at him with the aim of preventing him from filming a demonstration in Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris on 17 May.
The grenade was fired straight at him, with a flat trajectory, although this is strictly forbidden. Labat, who has filed a complaint, was left with an enormous bruise on the thigh.
Michel Soudais, the editor of the magazine Politis, says he might have been seriously injured by a member of the CRS riot police during a protest in Paris on 26 May if it had not been for the telephoto lens in his reporter’s vest.
“I was covering the protest at Place de La Nation, with my press armband clearly displayed, when I saw a riot cop charge at me and hit me in the stomach with his baton,” he said. “The blow knocked my camera aside and it was the telephoto lens in my vest that protected me. As far as I’m concerned, journalists are being targeted.”
Even more disturbing is the case of a young freelance photographer who was seriously injured towards the end of a demonstration on 26 May on Cours de Vincennes, the avenue that connects Place de la Nation to Porte de Vincennes.
When a gendarme threw a stingball grenade to disperse the crowd, the photographer was hit in the temple, collapsed and had to be hospitalized. Judicial and administrative investigations into the incident are under way and the case has been referred to the ombudsman.
The photographer is still under sedation in a Paris hospital four days later. Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve has told his family that everything possible will be done to shed light on the incident.
France is ranked 45th out of 180 countries in the RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.