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Unions demand explanations after two French journalists arrested in latest 'gilets jaunes' protests

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Unions demand explanations after two French journalists arrested in latest 'gilets jaunes' protests
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REUTERS/Yves Herman
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Last Saturday, at least two French journalists were arrested while covering the weekly "gilets jaunes" ("yellow vests") protests, reported French media.

Various videos circulating on social media show freelancer Gaspard Glanz being arrested by multiple police officers. He was arrested after raising his middle finger to authorities, according to French newspaper Liberation.

Earlier that day, freelancer Alexis Kraland was also arrested at Gare du Nord after showing police his journalism ID, tweeted his colleague Maxime Reynie, who was present at the moment of the arrest.

Kraland said himself on Twitter he had been arrested after he refused to give authorities his camera and because he refused to be searched by police.

Many called out the police's tweet congratulating the actions of authorities during last Saturday's demonstrations.

"The Police Prefect commends the effective and professional action of police and firemen who mobilised for the 23rd act on the gilets jaunes protests. They implemented the instructions of the Minister of the Interior and thus ensured the maintenance of public order in Paris."

In response to these arrests, the SNJ — the largest journalism union in France — demanded to know why police were arresting journalists if it wasn't to stop them from working and called on the French Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner to respect freedom of information.

Journalists have been complaining about the police since December

Journalists have been complaining about police treatment since the December 8th protests when 24 journalists and photographs filed a collective complaint about alleged police violence.

The French Union of Photojournalists (UPP) said they counted 15 clashes between photojournalists and police during the Saturday protest.

Two days later, a statement by the major journalism unions said this was a new sort of situation faced by the profession and denounced the "unacceptable slippages of polices forces, primarily in Paris".

Euronews spoke to Jérémie Assous, the lawyer representing the group of journalists, who said the situation was "very concerning".

"Before they targeted journalists, they intimidated them physically, But today, they are arrested and put in prison," he said referring to last Saturday's arrests.

"There are so many cases that they cannot be counted as isolated incidents. We have proof that it's systematic. There's little tolerance from authorities regarding journalists. In three months, nobody has been suspended. They think they have total impunity," he added.

Pierre Morel, a photojournalist and administrator of the UPP told Euronews that "at first we could say they were accidents. But now they are Defence Ball Launchers (LBDs), they were identified journalists, so we consider they were targeted on purpose."

A journalist who's been covering the protests but who wished to remain anonymous said that the demonstrations were "very violent" and that since journalists were in the middle of everything, they were also hit with the launchers like the others but that he did not think that police were targeting them on purpose.

The French journalist surveying all police violence against reporters

During the presentation of the latest Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press Freedom Index, French journalist David Dufresne presented his findings on his latest project regarding police violence on journalists during the gilets jaunes protests.

Dufresne found that there have been 62 acts of violence against journalists since the start of the protest, reported French media Telerama.

He added that press bracelets don't protect journalists like they used to anymore but that, in fact, they seem to be putting journalists in danger as police target reporters on the ground more and more.

The RSF index said that attacks and violence against journalism had "dangerously" increased in 2018.

Dufresne also called out police for confiscating journalists' working equipment.

"Material — photo cameras, video cameras — were also destroyed by the LBDs," he said, adding "when you confiscate a journalists' work equipment, he cannot longer account for the situation. It's a real violation of freedom of information."

The journalist has also been leading the project Allo Place Beauvau, which signals police violence on protesters to the ministry of the interior.

RSF's latest Press Freedom Index found that journalists in Europe were facing increasing hostility including violence and persecution. France ranked 32 out of 180 countries in the index.

France's interior ministry did not immediately respond to Euronews' requests to comment on this article.