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Anger over new France case of journalists being treated as police auxiliaries or criminals

Anger over new France case of journalists being treated as police auxiliaries or criminals
A TV production company in a Parisian suburb was raided on March 2 in connection with a documentary about Martinique in which a member of the French Caribbean island’s white business elite, Alain Huyghues-Despointes (above), made racist comments.

A TV production company in a Parisian suburb was raided on March 2 in connection with a documentary about Martinique in which a member of the French Caribbean island’s white business elite, Alain Huyghues-Despointes, made racist comments, according to Reporters sans Frontières (RSF)

The comments sparked a controversy after the Tac Presse documentary, called “The Last Masters of Martinique” and directed by Romain Bolzinger, was broadcast by the national TV station Canal+ in its “Spécial Investigation” slot on January 30. The Martinique prosecutor’s office began on February 9 to investigate Huyghues-Despointes on suspicion of “condoning a crime against humanity and inciting racial tension.” Huyghues-Despointes meanwhile claimed his comments were taken out of context.

The March 2 raid was carried out by five plainclothes police officers, an investigating judge and a court clerk as part of this investigation. They searched Tac Presse’s offices and viewed the master (original) of the documentary but took nothing away. Many journalists were present for the raid, having gone there after being alerted by Tac Presse that it was about to take place. The production company handed over the master on Tuesday.

Prior to the raid, the investigators had asked Tac Presse to provide the rushes (original raw footage) of its interview with Huyghues-Despointes. The production responded that it had not kept the rushes but that, precisely because of the controversial nature of his comments, it had included them in their entirety, without any editing, in the documentary.

“Journalists have once again been treated as police auxiliaries or even as criminals,” RSF said. “Such methods are all the more out of place in this case as the interviewee’s comments could have been manipulated but the journalists chose not to edit them and had no other footage. What was the point of this raid ? It is hard to believe that the investigation could not have continued in Martinique without the rushes.”

RSF continued, “It is shocking that despite the justifiable outcry about Vittorio de Filippis’ early-morning arrest at his home last November, the French authorities still think it is normal and appropriate to carry out a raid on a media company. France sadly holds the European record for targeting journalists with court summonses, judicial investigations and arrests.”

The former publisher of Libération, Vittorio De Filippis was arrested at his Paris home on the morning of November 28, taken to a detention centre, given a body search and finally taken before a judge, who told him he was being investigated in connection with a defamation complaint.

RSF added, “The authorities undertook a few months ago to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources but the relevant bill has still not had its second reading by the National Assembly. This latest episode demonstrates the urgent need for a law protecting sources and establishing rules for raids and searches.”

Date posted: March 4, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 481