The head of state wrote that he wanted journalists “to remain free everywhere in the world”. But in recent months, the Global Security Law and several police abuses have fueled the controversy over press freedom in France.
President Emmanuel Macron gave a message of support to journalists on May 3, World Press Freedom Day. “Let’s continue to fight to keep them free all over the world. Let us continue to fight to protect them. Let us continue to fight against the disinformation that threatens our democracies. For peace, justice, human rights ”, wrote the French head of state on the networks.
Journalists keep us informed.
Let us continue to fight so that they remain free all over the world. Let us continue to fight to protect them. Let us continue to fight against the disinformation that threatens our democracies. For peace, justice, human rights. https://t.co/I9NhhFB1YZ
– Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 3, 2021
A speech that contrasts with the situation of journalists in France, positioned 34th in the 2021 world ranking of press freedom established by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). In particular since the final adoption on April 15 by the Parliament of the Global Security Law and its famous article 24, rewritten but still penalizing the “malicious” dissemination of the image of the police, a legal modification which crystallizes a broad dispute among defenders of public freedoms.
In the wake of the adoption of the law, nearly 90 left-wing deputies, including LFI and Socialists and Allies, the Center and Ecologists announced that they would lodge an appeal with the Constitutional Council to challenge it. This group of elected opposition officials said they were targeting “Article 24 in particular […] which, by creating a new offense of “provocation to identification”, clearly undermines the principle of legality of offenses and penalties, the right to security, and weighs on freedom of expression as well as on freedom of the press a serious threat ”.
France pinned down by the Council of Europe
By publishing his tweet, the French president also seems to have forgotten that on April 29, the Council of Europe, of which France is a founding country, warned about the situation of press freedom in France, in particular on the harassment of which journalists are increasingly victims. Because according to the latest annual report of the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists, France is the European country in which journalists are the most harassed, ahead of Slovenia, Ukraine and Poland.
The authors of the report count 201 alerts concerning attacks on media freedom and the safety of journalists, 40% more than in 2019, the highest number ever recorded in a year, twice as many as in 2019. ” in 2015 – year of creation of this European media barometer. Worse, the number of physical attacks against journalists, but also the facts of harassment and intimidation reached according to the report “record levels”. The member organizations of the Council of Europe’s Press Freedom Platform deplore in particular the incidents and attacks against journalists covering demonstrations, in Greece, France, Italy, Poland, the Federation of Russia, Spain, Turkey and UK.
Recurring violence committed against journalists
At the microphone of RT France, the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists Dominique Pradalié explained in November 2020 during a demonstration against this law that “what is at stake is quite simply the rule of law in France, the freedom of inform”. “The intention is to muzzle the press,” she continued.
Several other episodes have come to illustrate the particular relationship of the French authorities to the freedom to inform. Numerous journalists have regularly alerted to violence committed by the police against them while covering rallies and demonstrations. RSF, for example, lodged a complaint against the Paris police chief Didier Lallement following “police violence committed against journalists during an operation to evacuate migrants” in Paris on November 23, 2020. The complaint from the NGO also pointed to an “obstacle to the exercise of freedom of expression”.
Two days earlier, on November 21, while covering a demonstration in Paris against the Global Security bill, a Media journalist was thrown to the ground by a policeman’s trifle during a violent charge occurred after collisions. A sequence filmed by the Ruptly video agency. Similar scene reported by AFP a week later, still in opposition to this bill: Syrian photographer Ameer al-Halbi was injured while covering the “March for Freedoms” on November 28 . He had said to Release that a police officer had hit him in the face with a baton during a charge of the police against thugs, while the agent had yet discerned that he was a photographer, he assured.
RT France always persona non grata at the Elysee
In addition, RT France journalists, like several of their colleagues, also encounter difficulties in exercising their profession, as evidenced by the chaotic coverage of the 2017 presidential election. The movement of the future winner Emmanuel Macron, En Marche, had refused any accreditation to RT reporters. A position renewed after the arrival in power of the former minister of François Hollande. To this day, the Elysee Palace still refuses RT France access to the press room of the presidential palace.