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French media groups denounce Le Pen party’s obstruction on campaign trail

Charles Platiau, AFP | Journalists surround Marine Le Pen at a campaign event in Rungis, France on April 25, 2017.

Representatives of 29 French media organisations, including FRANCE 24, signed a petition Thursday denouncing Marine Le Pen’s National Front party for obstructing their access to events and ability to inform the public.

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The petition was released days before the May 7 final round of the 2017 French presidential election following a series of incidents when journalists from several media groups were denied access to National Front (FN) events on the campaign trail.

"On a campaign event for the second round of the presidential election, the National Front decided to choose which media were authorised to follow Marine Le Pen. Representatives of several media groups were then kept away from any information and any possibility to follow the National Front candidate on the ground,” the statement noted. “Media are therefore obliged to use pool coverage to gain access to shared information and images.”

Signatories to the statement included leading French news organisations such as Le Monde, Le Figaro, AFP, Radio France Internationale (RFI), RMC, RTL, FRANCE 24, BFM TV, Le Journal du Dimanche and Le Petit Journal.

‘Harder and harder to work’

The far-right French party, which runs on an anti-establishment platform, has a history of hostility to the mainstream press.

At a campaign event Thursday in the southern French city of Nice, which brought together 4,000 Le Pen supporters, Le Monde photographer Laurence Geai described the atmosphere as “tense”. In a Twitter post, Geai noted, “#meeting Marine Le Pen, #harder and harder to work, we're parked like sheep and we cannot move.”

Minutes later, Geai tweeted, “#meeting Marine Le Pen threats to kick me out…”

Over the weekend, Mathias Destal, a journalist with the weekly Marianne magazine and co-author of a book on Le Pen, was denied access to the FN offices in the northern French town of Hénin-Beaumont to cover the election night event following the first round of the presidential election.

Journalists from the Quotidien TV newsmagazine presented by French news anchor Yann Barthès have faced routine harrassment. In a May 2015 interview with French radio station, France Inter, Barthès described how his team was attacked during the FN’s May Day rally in Paris. The veteran journalist explained that his team was attacked by FN members in a 30-metre area between a VIP enclosure and French security officials.

Several journalists have complained of being on an FN blacklist denying them access to party events.

The threats have sometimes been explicit. Shortly after Laurent Burlet, a reporter at the news site Rue89, did an investigative report on the far-right movement, he discovered a message scrawled at the entrance to his Lyon home that said: “We know where to find Laurent."

The statement by 29 media organisations noted that the media was being obstructed from performing its role in a democratic society and added: "We protest in the strongest possible terms against this obstruction of our freedom to do our job and fulfill our duty to inform" the public. 

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