'They tell nothing but lies': France's 'yellow vests' reveal their hatred of the media

Evie Burrows-Taylor
Evie Burrows-Taylor - [email protected]
'They tell nothing but lies': France's 'yellow vests' reveal their hatred of the media
A protester holds a placard reading "Abolition of media control by the rich" at Republique.Photo: AFP

The weekend's 'yellow vest' protests saw more violent attacks and abuse targeting French journalists and some even blocked newspapers from being distributed. Here Gilets Jaunes tell The Local exactly why they detest and distrust the media in France.


Saturday's yellow vest protests across France were for the most part similar to previous weekends.
Thousands marched in cities across France chanting for President Emmanuel Macron to resign, there were clashes with police, albeit less serious ones than in the run-up to Christmas, and there were more reports of French journalists being abused and physically attacked.
The video below shows reporters from LCI television and their bodyguards, who are now employed to protect many journalists covering the marches, being kicked and punched in the northern city of Rouen. It is not clear what sparked the attack.
The editor of the local newspaper in the south-west La Depeche du Midi reported that a female journalist was surrounded in her car by gilets jaunes. They threatened to pull her out of the car and rape her before other yellow vests stepped in to help.
One feature of the spontaneous grassroots anti-government movement that began in November is the distrust and even hatred felt by many gilets jaunes towards the French media. 
The anti-media sentiment felt among many 'yellow vests' has been snowballing since the beginning of the protests in November. 
Over the weeks, journalists have been attacked and abused in cities across France. The 24-hour news Channel BFM TV has been a frequent target of the ire of many yellow vests, but local newspaper reporters have also been roughed up.
Although physical attacks are rare, journalists are regularly insulted at protests, called liars, whores or 'journalopes' (a portmanteau of the French words for 'journalist' and 'bitch') and are the targets of hateful attacks and even death threats on social media.
Experienced French journalists say the level of abuse and the attacks is unprecedented. 
While some pin the violence on far-right or far-left militants who have tagged along with the protests, how do we explain the general hatred and distrust towards the media by the majority of gilets jaunes?
The most noticeable -- and numerous -- signs being carried by the 'yellow vests' who gathered at Place Seraucourt in the central French town of Bourges on Saturday were those asking Macron to resign. But it wasn't only the French president (and his government) who were the focus of the gilets jaunes' resentment this weekend, with signs on display targeting prominent French media outlets such as BFM, CNews and LCI.
One sign on prominent display at Place Seraucourt (see below) read: "BFM, CNews, LCI spread hate and lies."
And on Saturday in Bourges, several people at the protests refused to be interviewed by The Local, saying that they were simply not willing to engage with the media. 
One protester, 43-year-old organic farmer Micael Bonjour, was willing to speak and said that he believes the media in France is censored by the government, and asked if this was the case with The Local. 
"I don't think the media has been very fair to the gilets jaunes," he said. "They've really focused on violence from our side -- which I admit isn't good -- and it feels like they only half-heartedly show the police violence.
"I'm not sure it's their fault though, maybe they're being censored by Macron but I definitely don't trust the reports I see in the press."
Another protester, Laetitia Diat, said that she didn't trust the reports she saw. The 38-year-old factory worker said that the violence she'd seen on the 'yellow vest' side was a result of frustration with the police. 
Photo: AFP
"I've been to several of the protests in Paris and the things I've seen... police officers hitting people who weren't doing anything wrong four or five times, sometimes over the head. Horrible injuries, with people (gilets jaunes) covered in blood," she said.
"Then you watch the news and you just see the 'yellow vests' trying to attack the police when in my experience that only happens once the police get aggressive."
Diat also said she didn't trust the figures reported on the news, believing that the 'yellow vest' crowds have been much larger than the official figures reported by the media. 
Protesters say that media coverage is one-sided and biased, with only incidents of violence being reported. 
Shortly before Christmas, a clip from France 3's regional news report went viral, showing a studio anchor cutting off the reporter as she was about to mention incidents of police violence against protesters.
It was seized on as evidence of media bias, although the TV station said it was simply because they ran out of time.
Michelle Auclair, a 70-year-old pensioner, said that she felt disappointed that the media seemed to make the gilets jaunes out to be the "bad ones", making some people were scared of them. 
Others said they were relieved to have Facebook so that they could share the "real" information about what had been going on at the protests. Those same Facebook pages have been the source of many wild conspiracy theories about the government, the police and indeed the media.
"The media is rubbish, they tell nothing but lies because they are on the side of the police," said Dominique Martin, 60, who said she has been protesting every Saturday since November. 
But the anger towards the media is not just manifesting itself in attacks on journalists. This weekend saw a worrying development in the movement.
Around 50 'yellow vests' blocked the printing centre for local newspaper L'Yonne Republicaine overnight in Auxerre, a town in the north-west of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comte region, meaning that newspapers could not be printed or distributed. 
The block meant that several regional dailies were not delivered on Saturday, including the Journal du Centre and La Republique du Centre.  
Photo: AFP
Similarly, 20,000 copies of the regional La Voix du Nord newspaper were not distributed on Saturday after the distribution centre was blocked by around 30 gilets jaunes on Friday night. 
According to reports, the protesters threatened to set the delivery truck on fire. 
"Where is this going?" said a worried Gabriel d'Harcourt, the head of the publication.
Members of the French government have also spoken out against the attacks. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner stressed that "in a democracy the press is free" and insisted those who attack journalists will be brought before justice.
Yet with many yellow vests tarring the press and the government with the same brush, it's unlikely statements from ministers will do much to soften the atmosphere towards journalists out in the field.
To some, the answer lies among the peaceful majority of yellow vests.
The organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on the unofficial leaders of the yellow vest movement to speak out against the attacks on journalists.
"We call on Yellow Vest spokespersons to denounce the growing violence against journalists, which are clearly part of a totalitarian logic. All silence would be a form of justification for lynching," said the RSF's Christophe Deloire.


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Anonymous 2019/01/15 13:17
I agree that the Media should be free to report what they see, but unfortunately they don't. They are censured by the government. I have seen MANY videos and photos of where the Police have hit the yellow vests and instigated the problems. The Police in France are known to be aggressive and troublemakers.<br />THANK YOU "THE LOCAL FRANCE" for reporting this without bias. I admire that.
Anonymous 2019/01/13 16:41
So, the gilets jaunes hate journalists, President Macron, the rich, politicians, the police, local authorities and a variety of ethnic groups. Not sure I want to live in a society which espouses those views.
Anonymous 2019/01/13 12:49
Perhaps the real reason for hatred of the media, is that the yellow vests fear the general public learning the truth of the violence and vandalism they are now causing.

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