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.
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