Reporters without Borders and the National Union of Journalists have pushed for an investigation into reports of police targeting journalists at “Gilets Jaunes” (yellow vest) protests in France.
The protests in Paris and other French cities, which began over rising fuel prices, have been met by police using rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas in an effort to disperse crowds.
Some journalists covering the protests in recent weeks have reported being the targets of police during their standoffs with protesters.
The NUJ’s Paris branch has sent a letter to France’s Minister of the Interior about the case of photojournalist Nigel Dickinson who was struck by a police projectile despite being “easily identifiable as a press photographer”, according to the union.
Its letter said: “We are deeply concerned that a significant number of journalists and media professionals appear to have been deliberately targeted during the events.
“Nigel Dickinson was easily identifiable as a press photographer. He was standing largely alone, separate from others, when hit. At that moment there was no activity taking place in the vicinity.”
Dickinson claims he was wearing a white helmet, goggles and a blue face mask at the time he was hit. He also had two DSLR cameras at his sides.
He said: “Throughout the day, many press and TV crew members were hit by police projectiles.
“I saw at least half-a-dozen people hit, mainly in the stomach or abdomen. They were in great pain and treated by first aid volunteers.”
RSF alleged that French police had confiscated helmets, goggles and gas masks from journalists on the scene of protests held on 8 December.
The press freedom group also claimed that some reporters were told they would be arrested if they did not hand over equipment.
Le Parisien reporter Yann Foreix reported taking a shot of flash ball – a French-made non-lethal projectile – in the neck from 2m distance that caused him to briefly lose consciousness.
Explicite news website reporter Paul Conge tweeted that he took a flashball in the back (translated from French).
Je viens de me prendre un tir de Flashball dans le dos
— Paul Conge (@paulcng) December 8, 2018
Another photojournalist posted a video on Twitter showing police confiscating his protective gear. He said neither officer showed him their identification during the encounter.
— BOBY START UP & CIE (@OdieuxBoby) December 8, 2018
RSF general secretary Christophe Deloire said: “We urge the authorities to shed light on this violence, to return the professional equipment, including protective equipment, that was confiscated from journalists, and to guarantee that there will be no further confiscations in the future.”
RSF has said it wants independent French ombudsman Jacques Toubon to lead an investigation into police targeting of journalists during gilets jaunes protests.
Picture: Reuters/Stephane Mahe