“Paris Saint-Germain deserves yellow card for dirty tackles against journalists”

After unfairly benching some reporters, French football club Paris Saint-Germain has now been accused of using a “digital army” to subject journalists to dirty tackles. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the Qatari businessman who is PSG’s president and CEO, to stop using such methods to intimidate the media.

“It is absurd and appalling to see how one of the most legendary French football clubs has used its money and influence to attack the media and threaten journalists. PSG must end such deplorable practices as using digital mercenaries to intimidate reporters who cover the club, as well as others. Dirty tackles against journalists are dangerous and PSG deserves a yellow card at the very least. PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi must put a stop to practices that violate press freedom and must ensure that journalists can work without being subjected to arbitrary obstruction, discrimination or intimidation.

Christophe Deloire
RSF secretary-general

After barring the French sports daily L’Équipe from its press conferences in 2018 and banning its players from talking to certain reporters, Paris Saint-Germain has launched a digital offensive, according to the French news site Mediapart.

In a report published on 12 October, Mediapart said the Qatari-owned Parisian club used the services of an agency called Digital Big Brother to create a “digital army” of fake Twitter trolls that have subjected a range of targets, including media outlets such as Mediapart and L’Équipe, to violent and often crude attacks.

PSG deputy communications director Nicolas Serres denied the Mediapart report when contacted by RSF. “We have never hired an agency to harm anyone’s reputation, including journalists,” he said. “Paris Saint-Germain is a club that respects press freedom and journalists (...) Dozens of journalists are in daily contact with the club’s communications department and enjoy the best conditions to carry out their work.”

But Frédéric Geldhof, the former operations director at URéputation, a Digital Big Brother subsidiary, told the French radio station RTL: “Everything was done in collaboration with the club.”

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