RSF files complaint with HuffPost reporter who was victim of new wave of police violence in France
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) joined videographer Pierre Tremblay today, on 18 July, in filing a complaint about the police violence to which Tremblay was subjected while covering a protest in Paris on 8 July – a protest about police violence – for the HuffPost news website.
The complaint about “intentional violence committed by a representative of public authority with the use of a weapon” refers to Tremblay’s treatment by members of a special police unit called the Motorised Anti-Violence Brigade (BRAV-M).
While covering a rally held to commemorate Adama Traoré, a young man who died in police custody in a Parisian suburb in 2016, Tremblay was thrown to the ground by BRAV-M police officers, suffering a sprain to his wrist requiring a week off work and three weeks with his hand immobilised.
Two other freelance reporters, Clément Lanot and Florian Poitout, who were filming the rally for CLPRESS and Abaca Press respectively, were also subjected to unlawful use of force by BRAV-M members.
“We call on the judicial authorities to elucidate the circumstances of these acts and to establish who was responsible. Administrative measures must also be taken. The National Law Enforcement Plan (SNMO) requires the police to protect journalists and prohibits any abusive measures. We will keep reminding them of that.
Last week, the three journalists filed a complaint with the department that polices the police, called the National Police General Inspectorate (IGPN), which received them and questioned them. Tremblay, who is being supported by HuffPost’s management, then decided to file a complaint with the prosecutor’s office, prompting RSF’s decision to file a complaint for the violence suffered by the journalist.
“I see a deterioration in relations between the police and the media, above all because of the controversial methods used by BRAV-M, this unit that was created in the wake of the Yellow Vests protest movement,” Tremblay told RSF. “It is imperative that the judicial investigation into this complaint should recognise that this was an unacceptable attack on a journalist and on press freedom.”
Tremblay has been covering protests for ten years and knows how to work without getting in the way of the police. But, during the demonstration that the “Truth for Adama” Committee organised on 8 July, he felt he was clearly targeted by the police, as did the two journalists with him, Poitout and Lanot.
A video filmed by Lanot shows how BRAV-M police officers brushed past a passer-by who was in their way in order to use their batons against the three journalists – who were not in their way – until they had been forced to the ground. And the violence did not stop there: when Poitout was on the ground, one of the police officers deliberately damaged his camera.
When questioned by RSF about the attack on the three journalists, the Paris Police Prefect’s office said: “An administrative investigation was opened immediately in order to establish the exact circumstances of the facts, at the same time as the arrests, for which the Police Prefect assumes full responsibility.”
In just two months, RSF has tallied 15 cases of illegitimate police violence against journalists, as many as during the previous two years. Most occurred during protests against the government’s pension reform.
The complaint filed jointly with Tremblay is the 22nd complaint about police violence against reporters in France that RSF has filed since 2019. So far, only one led to a trial that ended in a conviction.
France is ranked 24th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2023 World Press Freedom Index.