The political correspondent for French news broadcaster France 24, Mickael Szames, was allegedly beaten and insulted by security agents from France’s extreme right-wing National Front (FN) at a party congress on Saturday, the French broadcaster reported.
In a live broadcast from Tours, where the congress was held, the journalist said eight FN security officers knocked him to the ground and hit him for taking pictures at the reception.
“He showed his credentials at the desk before getting in, and was even welcomed to join the reception,” Jean Lesieur, Editorial Director for France 24, told IPI. “There were people singing, dancing, and Mickael was just taking some pictures with his mobile phone when he was attacked. Some security officers grabbed him, took him out and beat him up.”
Szames also said he was racially abused by Le Pen’s security team, as he left the party to the hospital, where doctors said he had a fractured rib and trauma on his neck.
He said security guards took his mobile phone, confiscated his press card and his watch.
“He will not be able to work for the next two weeks,” Lesieur said.
Speaking of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who in 1972 founded the xenophobic and far-right FN party and led it until this weekend, Lesieur noted: “He said that even if Szames was complaining that he was thrown out because he was Jewish, there was nothing in his press card ‘nor on his nose’ (sic) that shows that.”
Jean-Marie Le Pen’s daughter, Marine, France’s newly-elected National Front leader, said that if she had had to comment on the issue, she would have been tougher than her father, according to Lesieur.
The National Front sued the journalist for faking injuries, claiming that the doctor of the hospital completed a false report on him. “We are suing the National Front back for beating up,” Lesieur said. “Even if it was a private party, they let him join the reception. In any case, this is not an excuse for assaulting and insulting a journalist.”
After the incident, Lesieur issued an e-mail to Marine Le Pen voicing his “strongest protests” against the “shameful behaviour” of Front National members on Szames. He said he was “shocked” by her “casual” treatment of the issue, and labelled Jean-Marie Le Pen’s comments on the incident as “disturbing and even obnoxious”.
IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills said: “We urge the authorities to investigate these serious allegations of assault against a journalist. Journalists must have a right to work free of the threat of attack.”