While the freedom to film protesting police officers is being debated in the Assembly, the ability of reporters to cover them is, according to many journalists, called into question.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on Wednesday revived tensions by suggesting that they should seek accreditation from the authorities before covering protests – and their excesses. To better understand this face-to-face meeting between the minister and a large part of the press, we take stock.
Where does the controversy come from?
The controversy actually began shortly after the presentation by Gérald Darmanin of its new National Law Enforcement Plan (SNMO), in September. In particular, in the context of events, it was mentioned the deployment of a “dedicated exchange channel set up […] with journalists, holders of a press card, accredited to the authorities ”.
The idea that only embedded journalists – which is not the case for the entire profession – can go to demonstrations, and that they must obtain accreditation from the authorities to go on public roads, is obviously not not passed to reporters who are used to covering gatherings freely.
In response to the protests of the latter, the Minister of the Interior then assured that it was a “misunderstanding”. “We never asked for a press card to be able to be a journalist on a demonstration. Journalists have the right to access it and are in contact with the Paris police headquarters, ”he assured France Inter.
But the fact of having to be “in contact” with the police headquarters before public demonstrations was always a problem for journalists.
Why is this controversy coming back to the table today?
On Tuesday, following violence during a demonstration against the proposed law on comprehensive security, under discussion in the National Assembly, several journalists complained of having been attacked and prevented from working.
The independent reporter Clément Lanot, for example, has been threatened with arrest and called to leave the demonstration while filming an animated dispersion of the crowd on the boulevard Saint-Germain, in Paris. A journalist from France 3 Ile-de-France, who lived near the scene, was taken into custody after refusing to leave the premises at the request of the police. He was filming clashes between the police and demonstrators, according to the National Union of Journalists (SNJ) France Télévisions.
Asked about Clément Lanot during a press conference on Wednesday, Gérald Darmanin then replied that he should have “approached the Paris police headquarters” before the demonstration. “I remind you that if journalists cover demonstrations, in accordance with the plan for maintaining order that I mentioned, they must approach the authorities, in this case the prefects of the department, particularly here, the prefect of police of Paris, to stand out, to be protected by the police, ”he said.
How did the journalists concerned react?
The suggestion has rekindled the anger of journalists and 39 news organizations (including the Société des Journalistes du Parisien-Today in France), who defend the freedom to cover public events.
This accreditation system is “a green light granted by the Minister of the Interior to the police to prevent journalists from fully reporting the demonstrations, including their dispersal or their slippage”, they say in a column broadcast on the site of Liberation. “It is all the more unacceptable since it follows the numerous police abuses observed against journalists during recent social movements and denounced, among others, by the Council of Europe“, we read.
They also call on the Minister “to correct this” new framework for the exercise of law and order “to bring it into conformity with the French and European principles of the freedom to inform”.
What does Gérald Darmanin say about it?
The minister clarified his remarks on Wednesday evening, assuring that this accreditation process with the prefectures was not mandatory. “To avoid confusion at the time of an operation, the national plan for maintaining order that I presented in September provides that journalists can, without having to do so, contact the prefectures before demonstrations “, Defends the minister on Twitter.
A precision that seems insufficient in view of the statements of many journalists. “No, no accreditation is necessary to cover a Gérald Darmanin event. We do not have to “get closer to the prefecture” to do our work as a journalist on the ground in France in complete independence “, notably tweeted the journalist Rémy Buisine from Brut, a regular at gatherings.