Paris (AFP) – Reporters Without Borders on Sunday called on those who speak for France’s “yellow vest” protesters to condemn numerous attacks and threats against journalists across the country during the latest round of anti-government demonstrations.
“A turning point has been reached,” Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of the Paris-based media rights watchdog, told the BFM television channel.
“We are facing a very serious situation which is threatening to get worse,” he said, after reporters were beaten, kicked and threatened with rape during Saturday’s rallies.
“We call on the spokespersons of the ‘Yellow Vests’ to solemnly condemn increasing violence against journalists during demonstrations,” he tweeted.
While he paid tribute to protesters who helped protect journalists, he lashed out at those committing “unacceptable anti-democratic blackmail” who say to journalists that “if you do not cover events exactly as we see them… then we are entitled to assault you”.
On Saturday protesters, some wearing yellow vests, surrounded and beat up a security officer accompanying LCI television reporters in the northern city of Rouen, breaking his nose.
In the southern city of Toulon, two AFP video journalists were threatened by protesters and forced to find refuge in a restaurant.
In France’s second-largest city Marseille, the crowd hurled insults at a video journalist from France 3 television as well as two local photographers, preventing them from working.
In the country’s southeast, a journalist was kicked in the city of Pau, while a female reporter of the French newspaper La Depeche du Midi was threatened with rape in Toulouse.
Overnight Friday protesters had also blocked the printing centre of the L’Yonne Republicaine newspaper and prevented the newspaper la Voix du Nord from being distributed.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner lashed out at the attacks on Twitter.
“In our democracy, the press is free. In our Republic, the freedom to inform is unalienable. Assaulting journalists is an attack on both,” he wrote.
More than 84,000 people turned out for the ninth Saturday of demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron since November, the interior ministry said, up from 50,000 the previous Saturday.
However, there was a marked decline in violence, despite hundreds of arrests and clashes with police in Paris and other cities.