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French journos ‘witnessing a deliberate effort to prevent us from working’

According to the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) association, nearly 90 journalists have been victims of police violence since the beginning of the Yellow Vest movement. Independent reporters and photographers are at the forefront of reporting on the events.

Published: May 2, 2019, 10:50 am

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    After the arrest and custody of the independent journalist Gaspard Glanz during the demonstration of Yellow Vests on April 20, more than 350 media outlets, journalists, photographers, independent or belonging to editorials denounced police violence.

    Glanz, also a signatory of a petition against the repression, was targeted after he exposed a new kind of pepper spray being tested on protesters. He manages the website Taranis News. Glanz asked the tank operator about it, but got no information in response.

    Glanz shows his smartphone destroyed by police agents. Facebook

    Glanz is now being harassed by the French authorities. He has been forbidden to cover Yellow Vest demonstrations in Paris, and was recently jailed for several days.

    The signatories warned that the precariousness of their working conditions and the physical and psychological aggression on the ground have become unbearable. They reclaimed their right to inform and underscored the freedom of the press.

    “We, journalists in the field, independent journalists, or when writing, with or without a press card, decided to speak collectively to denounce the multiple incidences of state violence we have to suffer.

    “For several years now and especially since the movement of Yellow Vests, each in our own way, but always in an information process, we are on the ground daily to document the news. Because of our profession of journalists, we are often at the forefront, in the midst of social struggles and sometimes confrontations between demonstrators and the police. We are exposed, we know it and we accept it.

    But we note that as the social movement intensifies and its violence, our work has become increasingly risky, difficult, if not impossible. Our working conditions are deteriorating. We note that this is not mainly because of the demonstrators, but largely the behavior of the police themselves,” the petitioners pointed out.

    “For three years now, we have been witnessing a deliberate attempt to prevent us from working, documenting, and testifying to what is going on during the protests. We are many,” they complained.

    “By violence, we mean: scorn, almost systematic surveillance, intimidation, threats, insults. But also: attempts to destroy or seize equipment, erasure of memory cards, truncheons, voluntary and targeted gassings, tear gas fire, LBD shots, launched grenades, etc. Before the demonstrations, we even had our protective equipment (mask, helmet, glasses) confiscated.”

    The petitioners added: “All these forms of violence have physical (injury), psychic (psychotrauma) or financial (broken or confiscated equipment) consequences. We are personally and professionally denigrated and criminalized.”

    David Dufresne has counted at least 85 attacks on journalists specifically among the 698 reports he has recorded since the beginning of the Yellow Vests movement.

    But all reporters are targeted, not only the card-carrying ones. “The vast majority of us are independent and precarious. Given the economic realities of our business, the press card has become extremely complicated to obtain, although we regularly publish in the major titles of the national and international press. Our daily life is competition, dumping, non-stop hours, split days.

    “However, the police force systematically ask for the possession of a press card to allow us to work, even if they partially or totally ignore the legislation surrounding our profession. As a reminder, journalism is not a regulated profession. This is not the press card that justifies or not our profession. The press card is only a tool whose obtaining is underpinned by a tax obligation.”

    France, a country of so-called human rights, is today ranked 32nd in the world press freedom ranking by RSF. “Freedom of the press is a fundamental pillar of any democracy. Journalists can not be worried, harassed, threatened, hindered, insulted, injured in a democracy worthy of the name,” the signatories concluded.

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