"The hate of journalists has degenerated into violence," reveals the 2019 report of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Its world ranking of freedom of the press, titled "The mechanics of fear", draws a dark portrait of the state of the media. Less than a quarter of the 180 countries surveyed report a "good" or "somewhat good" situation. At the top of the rankings are the Norway-Finland-Sweden trio, the Nordic good pupils, followed closely by the Netherlands and Denmark. Last of the list, Turkmenistan, which comes to replace North Korea. In some states, the arrival of new governments has considerably advanced the freedom of the press, as in Malaysia, Ethiopia and The Gambia. France finds itself in 32e rank (it was in 33rd place last year), behind countries like South Africa, Namibia or Costa Rica. For Pauline Ades-Mevel, Head of Europe and Balkans RSF, France remains "A great democracy badly ranked".
What is the global trend in freedom of the press?
There is a real rise in hatred towards journalists, who can no longer exercise safely and are victims of intimidation by authoritarian regimes. When the leaders of certain countries manifest their hatred and hold an anti-media speech, it galvanizes the crowds, who can sometimes act and become violent. If officials show a certain mistrust towards journalists, the public may be encouraged to have the same approach. We have seen it with Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro and Vladimir Putin. The context of defiance creates violence: the journalist no longer has a place and becomes an expiatory victim. By questioning the freedom of the press, we question a true pillar of democracy.
The 32e Place de la France is explained by the incidents related to the movement of yellow vests?
Yes, there has been a deterioration of the climate for five months and unprecedented violence. On the ground, journalists are victims of attacks by demonstrators and repression of the police. Photoreporters and videographers have been particularly affected. The nose in the viewfinder, they are also more easily identifiable with their material. Since the demonstrations against the labor law and the movement Nuit debout [au printemps 2016, ndlr], it has been noticed that the "press" cuff does not protect, on the contrary. There are thus about sixty incidents in the margin of the movement of yellow vests.
What can France do to move up the rankings?
It's a big, badly ranked democracy. It has been growing for three years, but it goes far enough. It goes back slowly since its 45e 2016, due to the attacks against Charlie Hebdo the previous year, which resulted in the death of eight journalists and cartoonists. To follow the road of our neighbors in Northern Europe, we must ensure the pluralism of the media and total independence of the press. The journalist must find his place and his credibility to work in a climate without violence.