November 15, 2017

RSF supports documentary filmmaker on trial in France

Demonstration of the GM&S employees / AFP
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned that a court in Guéret, in central France, may impose a disproportionate sanction on US documentary filmmaker and journalist Lech Kowalski in connection with his coverage of a protest by employees of local car parts manufacturer GM&S.

Born in the United Kingdom of Polish parents and resident in France for the past 20 years, Kowalski is due to be tried today on a charge of “violence, contempt and obstruction,” which is punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of 35,000 euros.

Kowalski was arrested while filming a sit-in at the prefect’s office in Guéret on 20 September by GM&S employees, who are fighting to keep their jobs. Four gendarmes forcibly removed him from the building and took him to the local police station, where he was briefly detained.

For the past several months, Kowalski has been making a documentary about the GM&S workers’ fight for the Franco-German TV network Arte.

We are concerned about the charge brought against this filmmaker, who was just doing his job to inform and was covering a protest by GM&S workers,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk. “Convicting Lech Kowalski would send a very negative message to all journalists covering labour unrest in France.”

A demonstration in support of Kowalski is due to be held outside the court in Guéret today.

France is ranked 39th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.