Liseron Boudoul, a staff reporter for the French TV channel TF1, began receiving hate messages on Facebook and Twitter, including such insults as “genocidal whore,” after TFI broadcast her report on its 8 p.m. news programme on 22 October. She was also subjected to pressure via a WhatsApp text from someone who had managed to get her personal phone number.
TF1 was itself also targeted by systematic harassment on social media and in emails and phone calls.
Two reporters for a leading French daily were also subjected to online threats from members of the Armenian community in France in early October in connection with their articles about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“We firmly condemn the harassment to which Liseron Boudoul and TF1 have been subjected,” said Pavol Szalai, the Head of RSF’s European Union and Balkans Desk. “It is unacceptable for a journalist and a media outlet to be hounded in this way for covering a conflict, on the grounds that they placed themselves on a certain side of the front line.”
Szalai added: “We also call on Franck Papazian, the co-chair of the Coordinating Council of Armenian Organizations in France, to unequivocally condemn this grave attack on freedom of the press.”
In a Facebook comment, Papazian described Boudoul’s report as “similar to disinformation.” One of the comments that followed said: “It’s possible that with a few beheadings of senior TF1 personnel, they will think better and more clearly.”
The day after Boudoul’s report was broadcast, members of the Armenian community demonstrated spontaneously outside TF1’s headquarters in Paris in protest against what they regarded as the TV channel’s biased coverage.
A few days before Boudoul’s report, TF1 had broadcast two reports from the Armenian side of the front line. To defuse tension, TF1 finally removed Boudoul’s report from its website.
France is ranked 34th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index, while Armenia is ranked 61st and Azerbaijan is ranked 168th.