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France's media under attack as election race heats up: watchdog
February 13, 2017 / 6:30 PM / in 8 months

France's media under attack as election race heats up: watchdog

PARIS (Reuters) - Journalists in France are increasingly coming under “violent attacks” from political officials during the closely-fought presidential race, media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Monday.

Journalists surround Francois Fillon (C), former French prime minister, member of The Republicans political party and 2017 presidential candidate of the French centre-right, during a visit to the Akuo solar energy farm in Etang-Sale as he campaigns on the French Indian Ocean island of the Reunion, February 11, 2017. REUTERS/Laurent Capmas

The Paris-based group said the media was facing increasing hostility, notably from Francois Fillon and some of his backers after the conservative challenger was hit by a scandal that has badly affected his election chances.

Fillon’s spokesman was not immediately available for comment, but the former prime minister previously accused the press of a carrying out a “witch-hunt” to bring him down.

“RSF strongly condemns the attacks currently suffered by journalists who must be able to exercise their profession under the best conditions, especially in an electoral period,” said Pauline Ades-Mevel, head of the group’s European Union office.

“This sickening and harmful climate is dangerous for press freedom even more so when it is carried out by senior political officials sending the barely veiled message that any citizen can attack the press without punishment,” she said.

The group cited an incident on Feb. 9 when officials within Fillon’s entourage booed journalists.

The latest animosity towards the press comes after a video earlier this month showed a reporter being grabbed by security men and forcefully hustled away after asking a question of far right National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

Reporting by John Irish; editing by Richard Lough

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