RSF condemns physical attacks on journalists covering unrest in France
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the attacks on journalists who have been covering the protests and rioting in France in response to the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old youth identified as Nahel in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre on 27 June.
Updated on 4 July 2023
At least 18 media professionals who had been sent to cover the unrest and incidents triggered by Nahel’s death were attacked during the four days from 27 to 30 June in several French cities.
“The attacks on journalists covering the urban violence are completely unacceptable. Everything must be done so that they can continue to guarantee the right to news and information with the utmost safety.
Most of the incidents registered by RSF took place in Nanterre, where Nahel lived and was killed. They included an attack on Kiran Ridley, a photojournalist working for Getty Images whose nose was broken when several youths hit him in the face three times on the night of 27 June. A Bloomberg reporter who was with him was also aggressed. Ridley was scheduled to undergo facial reconstructive surgery on 3 July.
Henrique Campos, a freelance photographer who works for the Hans Lucas photo agency, was attacked on the morning of 28 June while photographing the site of Nahel’s death for the newspaper L’Humanité. He told RSF he was “jeered at and insulted” by “five or six young men” gathered near a motorcycle. The youngest member of the group then tried to smash his camera equipment, while another brought him to the ground. Campos managed to protect his equipment but received many kicks and elbow blows to the ribs. Five days after the attack, he was back at work, but was still suffering from multiple bruises.
Targeted by cobblestones
Freelance photographer Corentin Fohlen was physically attacked during clashes that erupted after a march in Nahel’s memory on 29 June and continued during the night. An individual hit Fohlen’s helmeted head with a cobblestone while he was taking photos for the national daily Libération. After he fell to the ground, several people tried to take his helmet and someone stole the camera he had tried to use to defend himself.
Khanh Renaud, a photojournalist who works for Le Point magazine, was surrounded and attacked by a dozen rioters at around 1 a.m. on 30 June, after firefighters and police “out of ammunition” had left the area. They gave him a severe beating, using even cobblestones to hit him, robbed him, and then abandoned him alone on the sidewalk. He suffered a knee injury and multiple bruises.
Ibrahim Hendy, a photographer for the Turkish news agency Anadolu who is a political refugee in France, was accosted while covering events on Avenue Pablo Picasso with a colleague towards the end of the afternoon of 29 June. He reported to the “RSF urban violence hotline” that several masked individuals took his equipment – two cameras, two lenses and an SD card – and demanded 500 euros to give it back. He refused and, as a result, was unable to recover his equipment.
A two-man Al Jazeera crew was attacked in the same area on the night of 29 June by young men who objected to being filmed live while rioting. The reporter was severely beaten and the cameraman's equipment was stolen. The two journalists found refuge with the police without being able to recover their equipment.
That same night in Nanterre, Steven Decraene, a reporter for VRT Nws, the Dutch-language Belgian public broadcaster, and his crew – a cameraman, a sound engineer and a fixer – were targeted by cobblestones while they were working. Their vehicle's left rear window was smashed. Earlier in the day, the team had received numerous death threats while broadcasting live the march in Nahel’s memory.
In Porte de Saint-Ouen, a short distance from Nanterre in northern Paris, a reporter for the Figaro newspaper was roughed up and his phone was taken. Another Figaro reporter who was trying to provide live coverage of the violence taking place was threatened by a man “with what resembled a firearm.”
At least two reporters were attacked during huge spontaneous protests in the eastern city of Besançon. One of them, a freelancer working for Radio BIP/Média 25 who is known by the pseudonym of Toufik-de-Planoise, received a blow to the head with a crowbar that required seven stitches. Emma Audrey, a journalist reporting for the same community radio station, received a blow that smashed her helmet. The attack ended when other persons intervened.
A video reporter for TV Tours-Val de Loire was attacked in Place de la Liberté in the city of Tours on the night of 29 June by around 15 masked individuals who roughed her up and smashed her camera. The TV station’s management announced that they would file a complaint.
The same night in the city of Nantes, a vehicle in the parking lot of the public channel France 3 - Pays de la Loire was set on fire. Several parts of the media’s building were damaged, according to its journalists.
Maël Fabre, a reporter for the Ouest-France newspaper, was thrown to the ground and was given a severe beating in the Roseraie neighbourhood of the city of Angers on 30 June. He said his newspaper intended to file a complaint about the assault.
France is ranked 24th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2023 World Press Freedom Index.