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France: EFJ statement on four journalists who were shot…

France: EFJ statement on four journalists who were shot at in Martinique

Four French journalists covering the protests against the Covid-19 rules and civil unrest in Martinique have been fired upon three times. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined its affiliates in France (SNJ, SNJ-CGT, CFDT-Journalistes) in expressing full support to the targeted journalists and strongly condemning a new attack on press freedom, which must be promptly investigated by the French authorities.

On the night of the 25 and 26 November 2021, photographer Loïc Venance from Agence France-Presse (AFP), journalists Maureen Lehoux and cameraman Julien Taureau from BFMTV/RMC Sport and journalist Raphaël Lafargue from Abaca Press were filming and taking pictures of a burning roadblock from a quiet street near the Levassor canal in Fort-de-France. The street was at the time deserted when two men on motorbikes drove by and started firing at them. No bullets hit them and they managed to flee the scene quickly, going for cover in their vehicle parked nearby and drove away.

Authorities on the Caribbean island of Martinique ordered a curfew yesterday after protesters looted stores and burned barricades amid strong protests over Covid-19 measures in the French overseas territories. A general strike started five days ago, notably against the compulsory vaccination of health workers. It is reported that seven policemen have been injured last night in Fort-de-France.

EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez said: “The civil unrest in Martinique reflects a complex situation that is exacerbated by the virus and all that it entails, so it is crucial that journalists be able to do their work freely and safely in order to best inform the public and the rest of the world about what is happening there. We give them all our support. We have taken the matter to the Platform for the protection of journalists of the Council of Europe.”

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France: Journalist Thomas Dietrich interrogated for two hours by…

France: Journalist Thomas Dietrich interrogated for two hours by police

Police summoned Le Média journalist Thomas Dietrich to Puteaux police station (Paris), where he was interrogated for two hours over a recent journalistic investigation. The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ/EFJ) joined their affiliate in France, the SNJ-CGT, in denouncing the attempted intimidation and have called on the authorities to dismiss the groundless complaint against him.

The summons followed a complaint filed by the former head of the Chadian political police, Mahamat Ismaël Chaïbo, for “threats to commit a crime or an offence” after the journalist went to his home in Paris to ask him questions. The journalist denied making any threat during the interview with Chaïbo, which took place last week on the doorstep of his apartment and was recorded. During the interview, Chaïbo responded to a few questions and eventually called his lawyer, saying a journalist was asking “dumb questions” and requested him to “prepare a complaint”.

Dietrich was released after three hours in custody, during which the police asked him questions for two hours regarding Chaibo’s allegations of threats. No charges have been filed against the journalist but the complaint has not been dismissed. Dietrich says he believes the action was designed to pressure him to stop his investigation and find his sources.

Dietrich is an experienced journalist who has been investigating Franco-African relations and crimes committed by authoritarian regimes close to French governments for several years.

“We can only be astonished at the speed of these intimidation maneuvers by the French police against our journalist, even though the authorities have twice allowed Mr. Chaïbo to return to Chad, despite his summons and the publication of our investigation,” said Le Média in a press release.

The French journalists’ union SNJ-CGT denounced the move as a clear attack on the right to information: “This obvious desire to put pressure on a journalist who is well known to the Chadian services and the government in power is intolerable. The SNJ-CGT is doing everything in its power to ensure the safety of a journalist who is in the sights of the Chadian regime and some Franco-African networks, so that he can continue his investigations,” said deputy secretary for International affairs Pablo Aiquel.

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “We cannot accept that the authorities harass and judicially pressure a journalist to stop him from doing his job. We stand in solidarity with Thomas and urge this groundless case to be closed.”

EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez added: “This case is serious as it is an attempt to intimidate a journalist and interfere with his investigative work. Thomas Dietrich was only doing his job as a journalist, asking questions and confronting the facts. His case must be closed immediately.”