FRANCE: Photographer and videographer detained for 48 hours and charged after covering protest

(Index on censorship) 22 May 2018 – A photographer and a videographer were detained for 48 hours and charged with unauthorised entry after covering the occupation of a school in Paris by protesters against a recent education reform, alternative website Taranis reported.

A member of photographers’ collective La Meute told Mapping Media Freedom: “A 21 year-old student and photographer from our collective named Gilles had been covering the anti Macron protest on that afternoon. He followed a crowd of around 100 protesters who decided to occupy the Arago high school. The police arrived quickly and circled the building. When they erupted inside the building he was broadcasting live on La Meute Facebook page. He kept telling them ‘I’m a journalist! I’m a journalist!’ as they entered the room where he was and rose their baton. But in the end he was detained, no matter what. He was then put in a police van that stayed in a parking lot, with no light, for around five hours. He was then taken to L’Evangile police station and told by the police that he shouldn’t take a lawyer as he would only be detained for 24 hours. But he wasn’t released and learnt that he had been put in detention pending trial. Officers said orders came from high up. After 48 hours he was released and is to be trialed on 17 October. Charges are: entering and staying in a school without authorisation with the intention of breaching the peace, and gathering with the intention of committing a misdemeanour.”

Gilles’ colleague also told MMF that the photographer had been wearing a helmet with the word “photographer” on it. He hid his memory card and his photos weren’t deleted, whereas the photos of other people who had been detained and had their material seized were deleted, the colleague said. According to La Meute, the police told Gilles that he wasn’t a journalist since he didn’t have a press card.

The police have been repeatedly informed that press cards are not necessary to be recognised as a journalist in France. They are quite difficult to obtain, particularly for young journalists and photographers.

A camera operator working for alternative website Do du reel was also detained. Her memory card was seized.

Around 100 people, a third of which were minors, were detained during that incident and kept in detention for 48 hours. Families complained that they didn’t have any news from their children for nearly 24 hours.