RSF files complaint about police violence against reporters in Paris
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has filed a formal complaint against the prefect of the Paris police, Didier Lallement, about the completely unjustified police violence against reporters and photographers during the forcible evacuation of a migrant tent camp from Place de la République, in central Paris, on 23 November.
Filed with the Paris prosecutor’s office, the complaint calls for an investigation into the use of violence against journalists covering the evacuation, including two who were roughed up and beaten and one who had a stingball grenade deliberately fired at him. These acts of violence constitute serious violations of the freedom to inform, the complaint says.
Rémy Buisine, a reporter for the news website Brut, was assaulted three times by the same police officer. The first time, he grabbed Buisine by the throat. Then he shoved him and manhandled him. And then he trampled on Buisine while he was on the ground. When Buisine shouted to the police, “It’s the third time he’s hit me in the past few minutes, we just want to work,” he was told: “Never two without three.”
Guillaume Herbaut, a freelance photographer who was holding a camera and was wearing a clearly visible “press” armband, was following a group of police at a distance of 30 metres when one of them took aim at him and fired a stingball grenade that exploded at his feet. Stunned, partially deafened and suffering from tinnitus, he asked the policeman why he had fired the grenade, to which the policeman replied: “You have no business being here.”
Another policeman hit Florent Bardos, a photographer working for the Hans Lucas agency, on the head with his baton, although Bardos was clearly identifiable as a journalist, was not obstructing the police, did not pose a threat to them, and was outside the area in which the police were trying to enclose the migrants. Stunned and bleeding from the head, Bardos had to ask firemen to come to his help and was unable to continue working.
“Paris prefect Didier Lallement is directly responsible for the operations and conduct of the police in Paris,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “An investigation will serve to determine exactly what instructions he gave regarding the safety of journalists in Place de la République on 23 November. Amid repeated acts of police violence against journalists and with law enforcement operations now almost systematically accompanied by press freedom violations, the justice system must examine what took place in order to prosecute those responsible.”
In December 2019, RSF filed a joint complaint with 13 journalists who were the victims of police violence while covering “gilets jaunes” (yellow vest) protests. The complaint filed with the Paris prosecutor’s office on the evening of 27 November was drafted with the help of lawyers with the Vigo law firm.
France is ranked 34th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.