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Detention of Gaspard Glanz is a sign of France’s increasingly authoritarian treatment of journalists

Capture d ecran d'une video de l'arrestation de Gaspard Glanz le 20 Avril 2019 par Taranis News

On 20 April 2019, video journalist Gaspard Glanz was arrested while filming a demonstration in Paris’ Place de la République. Gaspard runs the photo news agency, Taranis News, which covers social movements in France.

After his arrest, Glanz was placed in custody for “insulting a representative of law enforcement” and “participating in a group in order to provoke acts of violence and destruction.” Glanz was assigned an “S card,” indicating that he is considered to be a serious threat to national security, and may be subject to increased surveillance. He was also banned from entering Paris to cover subsequent Yellow Vest demonstrations, a measure that could leave him unable to do his work and earn a living.

Gaspard Glanz taken by Claude Truong-Ngoc on Wikimedia Commons – CC-BY-SA 4.0

Glanz remained in custody until 22 April, when he was released. Along with his lawyer, he confirmed his intention to contest the ban, which was ultimately annulled by the criminal court of Paris on 29 April, due to insufficient grounds.

Glanz was able to go to Paris on 1 May and on the following Saturdays, when the Yellow Vests hold their protests.

Glanz initially became known in France after his video reporting on social movements and protests such as the demonstrations against the labor law, the Nuit debout (“up all night”) movement, and the Yellow Vest demonstrations, as well as his reporting on the living conditions of refugees in Calais.

According to the police, Glanz was arrested for “participating in a group in order to commit acts of violence and destruction” and for “insulting a law enforcement official,” for giving the finger to a police officer. The former accusation is legally difficult to prove and was withdrawn upon his release.

Glanz described the conditions of his custody on Reporterre, a French news site with a focus on environmental issues:

La garde à vue s’est passée assez mal, j’ai des bleus partout. Quand je me suis fait arrêter, je me suis fait écrabouiller par terre, je n’ai rien mangé depuis samedi. J’ai pu boire, mais ce n’était pas facile, il a fallu se battre, et je pense que par ma notoriété, j’ai pu boire, alors que d’autres, dans ma situation, ne pouvaient pas le faire. Je sens encore l’odeur d’urine qui doit couvrir mon corps, pour vous donner une idée de l’ambiance du commissariat.

My time in custody went pretty badly, I’m covered in bruises. When I was arrested, I was slammed to the ground, I haven’t eaten anything since Saturday. I was able to drink, but it wasn’t easy, I had to fight for it, and I think because of my name recognition, I was able to drink something, but other people in my situation couldn’t. I can still smell the urine, I must be covered in it, to give you an idea of the ambiance at the police station.

He also explained what he saw as the real reasons for his arrest:

Quand il y a eu les attentats de Strasbourg et qu’on filmait leurs unités, ils étaient bien fiers de montrer leurs casques, leurs boucliers, leurs pistolets, là on était journalistes, on faisait leur promotion. Quand par contre, on montre leurs bavures, ce qui se passe dans les rues, la vérité de ce qui se passe dans Paris, alors on est interdit de tourner, parce qu’on pourrait montrer des choses qui ne doivent pas être vues. On a atteint un point de non retour très grave.

When there were the attacks in Strasbourg and their units were filmed, they were so proud to show their helmets, their shields, and their guns. There we were reporters, we were promoting the police. But when we show their mistakes, what’s happening in the street, what’s really happening in Paris, then we’re not allowed to film, because we might show things they don’t want to be seen. We’ve reached a very serious point of no return.”

Solidarity with Glanz

The national press and media rights organizations have come out in support of Glanz. Many criticisms have been leveled against the ministry of the interior, which has argued that Glanz didn’t have a press card. The card implies that the bearer works for an employer, but French law does not require journalists to carry a press card in order to do their work in public spaces.

Reporters Without Borders and the Sociétés de Journalistes de Libération have criticized “attacks on the freedom of the press.”

#GiletsJaunes: @RSF_inter and @SNJ_national denounce attacks on the “fundamental freedom of the press.” https://t.co/zvQnNlAftk #AFP pic.twitter.com/MeJtrFZzFn — Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) 21 April 2019

Attorneys have pointed out the legal inconsistencies of the minister of the interior's arguments:

An independent justice? Apart from the attack on the freedom of the press, the measures against the journalist @GaspardGlanz call into question the independence of the judiciary branch https://t.co/VhcIp9Pjpd — SAF [lawyers’ union] (@syndicatavocats) 26 April 2019

« Je rappelle à #GaspardGlanz qu’il existe dans notre pays une séparation des pouvoirs »

En préjugeant – es qualité de ministre de l’intérieur – de la commission d’un délit à la place d’un juge indépendant.

Quelqu’un pour rappeler à M Castaner la séparation des pouvoirs ? https://t.co/bZUggfy5Zm

— AuPalais (@palais_au) 26 avril 2019

The solidarity of French mainstream media journalists has been robust. The political editorialist for Radio France Inter gave the definition of a journalist, explaining how Gaspard Glanz fit the definition on every point:

Qu'est-ce qu'un journaliste ?
L'édito de @lofejoma #le79Inter pic.twitter.com/c3q025J9g9

— France Inter (@franceinter) 25 avril 2019

Another target of attacks on media freedom: the investigative site Disclose

On 24 April, four days after the arrest of Gaspard Glanz, two reporters from the investigative media website Disclose and one Radio-France reporter were called before the DGSI, the intelligence service of the ministry of the interior, for revealing secret defense documents as part of their investigation “Made in France,” on the massive use of French lethal weapons in the war in Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its coalition.

[URGENT] Deux journalistes de https://t.co/aJsaTD26Fz [Disclose] sont convoqués dans le cadre d'une enquête pour “compromission du secret de la défense nationale” suite à une plainte du ministère des Armées. #yemenpapers #madeinfrance @Mediapart @InvestigationRF @ARTEInfo@konbininews pic.twitter.com/heA1zeXML2

— Disclose (@Disclose_ngo) 24 avril 2019

enquête Disclose

Screen shot from Disclose home page featuring their “Made in France” investigation into the use of French offensive weapons in the ongoing war in Yemen

Once again, journalists were loud and clear in asserting their solidarity. Rue89 Strasbourg wrote:

Aujourd’hui, pour avoir exposé ces informations, trois journalistes se retrouvent sous la menace d’une procédure, pour un délit puni d’une peine d’emprisonnement, dont l’objectif manifeste est de connaître les sources à l’origine de leur travail.

Today, because they exposed this information, three journalists are being threatened with a lawsuit for a crime punishable by a jail sentence, when the goal is obviously to uncover the source of their information.”

37 sociétés de journalistes, de rédacteurs ou rédactions (dont celle de @LaCroix) apportent leur soutien aux journalistes de @Disclose_ngo et @RadioFrance qui seront entendus mi-mai par la DGSI suite à une enquête sur l'utilisation des armes aux Yémen #secretdessourceshttps://t.co/0Rf3ed41kM

— Aude Carasco (@a_carasco) 25 avril 2019

Media freedom moving backwards in France

From the moment he took office, French president Emmanuel Macron and his cabinet have had a distant relationship at best with the press, and a deplorable one at worst. This article from the daily Le Parisien tells the tale of a love gone cold.

Ce n’est pas du mépris ou de la détestation, il veut installer une relation directe avec les Français », analyse un interlocuteur régulier. Raison pour laquelle il est si féru des réseaux sociaux.

He doesn’t hate the press or disdain them, he wants to create a direct relationship with French people,” is the analysis of a regular contributor. That explains why he is so enamored of social media.

France currently ranks at number 32 out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 freedom of the press ranking, down one place and 0.34 points from 2018.

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