French TV crew assaulted by armed gang members

Police walk carrying a shield and a tear gas canister launcher in the Gresilles area of Dijon, eastern France, on June 15, 2020, as new tensions flared in the city after it was rocked by a weekend of unrest blamed on Chechens seeking vengeance for an assault on a teenager. (AFP/Philippe Desmazes)

Berlin, June 16, 2020–French authorities must immediately and thoroughly investigate the assault of three journalists by members of an armed gang and bring those responsible for the attack to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On June 15, a group of armed men assaulted three members of a news team working for public television channel France 3 in the city of Dijon in eastern France. The journalists were covering the fourth day of violence in Dijon’s Grésille neighborhood, Euronews reported, where dozens of men armed with iron bars and handguns allegedly participated in the destruction of cars, trash cans, and CCTV cameras.

“We call on French authorities to quickly and thoroughly investigate the attacks on France 3 TV crew members and hold those responsible to account,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities should take strong action to prevent violent attacks and intimidation of the press and to ensure that journalists can freely and safely cover events of public interest, including gatherings of violent groups.”

According to a France 3 report, two masked men armed with apparent assault weapons initially approached the journalists. Before the crew could leave the scene in their unmarked car, around 15 men surrounded them, asking who they were. After the journalists told them they were press, the men struck the car with baseball bats, smashing the windows, and threw stones and glass bottles, causing light injuries to two crew members who filed criminal complaints after the attack. 

Photos published to Twitter by the director of France 3 in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region showed the damage to the news team’s car. Euronews reported that around 100 police officers were deployed to deal with the unrest that day and four people were arrested.

CPJ emailed questions to the press department of the French national police but did not receive an immediate reply.