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France2 May 2002

Far rightists seize journalist’s film and security official hits TV crew member

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières - RSF) today deplored new aggression towards journalists by members of the far-right National Front (FN) party in Nice and during a May Day demonstration in Paris, saying it displayed a clear hostility to the media and a taste for violence instead of democracy.

"In less than a week, the FN has tried three times to intimidate the media," said RSF secretary-general Robert Ménard. "On 30 April, a journalist simply doing his job was insulted, surrounded and forced to hand over his film. On 1 May, a TV crew member was hit when he tried to defend a colleague being manhandled by FN security people. "Violence against journalists is not limited to the outbursts of FN leader Jean-Marie Le Pen," Ménard said. "It reflects a clear hostility by the party towards any media that dares to cross it. The FN prefers a policy of beating and insulting people to democratic discussion."

RSF learns that Jean-Luc Thomas, permanent correspondent of the French TV stations I-télévision and Canal+ in Nice, was held for an hour and a half at FN headquarters in Nice on 30 April by officials who demanded that he hand over his film so they could see the footage he had shot earlier in the day. Thomas had been given permission the day before by the FN’s departmental press officer, Catherine Garcia, to film preparations for the Front’s May Day demonstration in Nice. After doing this and including an interview with Garcia, the journalist returned to the FN offices in the afternoon, as previously agreed. When he got there, Jean-Pierre Schenardi, the FN departmental secretary and also member of the Alpes-Maritimes department’s regional council, insulted him, told him he could not film any more and demanded to see what he had already shot. Though surrounded by a dozen FN members, Thomas refused and phoned his editor-in-chief, Jean-Michel Fauveau, to tell him what was happening. Schenardi then said Thomas would not be allowed to leave until he had handed over the film. Thomas again refused and was further insulted and prevented from leaving the premises by four officials blocking a doorway and by lowered metal shutters at the entrance. He eventually handed over the film cassette but was then stopped from going out to his car to recharge his camera so he could show the film. Thomas was only able to leave after calling the police. After showing the film, with the police present, Thomas filed a formal complaint. An FN member who witnessed the episode confirmed that Schenardi had refused to allow further filming, demanded to see what had been shot and had detained Thomas saying he had a right to see the film. The witness said this was justified because Canal+ had "smeared the FN."

During the FN’s May Day demonstration in Paris, Gabriel Gueguin, a sound technician for the French TV station TF1, was struck in the face by a member of the National Front’s DPS security service when he protested against the manhandling of a cameraman colleague. Gueguin has also filed a complaint. RSF notes that on 26 April, a Canal+ crew was roughed up by the DPS during a press conference at the Front’s national headquarters in the Paris suburb of Saint-Cloud. Journalist Jean-Paul Lepers was attacked and a colleague, Yacine Ben Jannette, expelled from the room.




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