Yellow Vests : one year on, RSF proposals for ensuring journalists’ safety at protests in France
One year after the “gilets jaunes” (yellow vest) protest movement erupted in France in
November 2018, leading to an increase in violence at demonstrations, Reporters Without
Borders (RSF) is expecting the interior ministry to publish a new policy for policing
protests within the next few weeks.
Two weeks ago, RSF gave a detailed presentation of its recommendations for improving
policing and relations between police and reporters at protests to the group of experts
recruited by the interior ministry to help formulate the new policy.
A total of 54 journalists were injured and more than 120 incidents between journalists and
police were reported during the past year of “gilets jaunes” protests. Many reporters – both
professional and non-professional, both those with press cards and those without – say
they were subjected to unjustified police violence while covering the protests.
RSF is calling for the police to be given clear instructions about the media, including a
directive ordering them to respect media activities during protests and respect the
obligation to allow reporters to cover them.
Its recommendations include more coordination between police and journalists, and for
journalists to participate in the training that is given to the police. If police units that are
not specialized in policing demonstrations are called on to fulfill this role, they must also be
given prior training, RSF says.
RSF proposes creating police liaison officers to liaise with journalists both before and
during protests. These liaison officers could also receive early warnings from reporters
about urgent cases of violence or obstruction of the media.
RSF is also calling for systematic disciplinary measures against members of the police and
gendarmerie responsible for acts of violence or unjustified coercion targeting journalists,
including confiscation of equipment and obstruction their freedom of movement at
protests, and deliberate concealment of their police ID numbers.
None of the complaints submitted the Police Complaints Board about police abuses during
the past year of protests has so far led to disciplinary measures. RSF wants a faster
conclusion to judicial proceedings in cases of violence against journalists.
President Emmanuel Macron already promised to “closely follow” this issue during a
meeting with RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire in May and interior minister
Christophe Castaner undertook to study’s RSF’s recommendations when Deloire met him
France is ranked 32nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.