the occupants of universities do not have to police

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A journalist from watson was once again asked to submit his notes. It was Tuesday at the University of Geneva. A colleague from Time recounts his misadventure in the same place.

Journalists, your papers! The media covering the university occupation movements linked to the war in Gaza work under constant surveillance. We feel that, if they could, the organizers of these movements would do without the presence of “heads” who do not belong to them.

Attack on freedoms

For the second time in a week, yours truly was asked to hand over the pages of notes he had taken in his notebook. A first time, Friday, at Unil (Lausanne), a second time, Tuesday, at Unige (Geneva). And this, each time after a person from the media team, the only one authorized to speak to the press, had intervened during an interview with a third party, even though the latter’s anonymity could be guaranteed. These processes are detrimental to democratic practices.

Still on Tuesday, at Unige, Raphaël Jotterand, journalist at Time, was also entitled to “special” treatment, before things finally got better. He tells:

“I arrived in the Uni Mail lobby around 10 a.m., shortly after the occupation began. The occupiers had just started a general assembly. They were wondering, at that moment, if a journalist from Blick could attend a future general meeting.”

Raphaël Jotterand, journalist at Time

“You’re really annoying.”

He pursues:

“I was obviously spotted, since I heard, about me, “he’s a journalist”. Two individuals wanted to take me out of the Uni Mail lobby. I told them that I was a journalist at Le Temps. They retorted to me: “Time, you are really annoying”. They had earlier read an editorial calling on university professors to stay away from activist movements. I told them they had no right to kick me out of a public place. I then moved back ten meters to avoid further disrupting the proceedings. At the end of the AGM, two people from the media team came to see me. I spoke with them. They expressed regret for what had happened earlier, arguing the sensitive nature of the subjects discussed.”

Raphaël Jotterand

Question: Is a place as busy as a university hall suitable for holding general meetings seeking discretion? Are the supposedly apolitical occupation movements at the universities of Lausanne and Geneva under the control of the far left? Their attitude towards the media – and some of their journalists in particular – raises questions in any case.

In France, the National Rally has sometimes failed to issue accreditation on a daily basis Release, for example, on the grounds of critical coverage of its political line. The far left is no less litigious: in certain circumstances, we know its propensity to behave like a censor with all or part of the media.

This surveillance of the press, whatever the reasons, has no reason to exist. Certainly, a YouTuber, whose sole objective would be to take images to display faces on his channel, would be engaging in malice, bordering on harassing behavior.

Accept the contradiction

With regard to the written media, activists have the right to refuse to respond to a title or a journalist whose supposed line does not suit them, but nothing, in our opinion, authorizes them to draw up lists of titles or reporters not grata, nor to behave as a security service by demanding after the fact that comments collected on sheets of paper be handed over or destroyed. It’s abusing a power they don’t have.

Political movements – current occupations are by definition political – must accept contradiction, especially when they occupy spaces dedicated to the public. The counterpart, for journalists, as on any occasion, is to be kind to those interviewed and to report their words faithfully.

“Uninhibited intolerance”

Media specialist, Alexis Lévrier, lecturer at the University of Reims, that watson had interviewed about CNews, deplored on A place of debate, openness and training of critical thinking, the ESJ of Lille deserves better than this uninhibited intolerance.”

An air of “Nuit Debout”

The attitude of pro-Palestinian activists from Geneva and Lausanne, drawing attention to the dramatic situation in the Gaza Strip and demanding that measures be taken against Israel and its government, is not that of “radicalized students” closed to any contact with the press. But there is radicalism among them – something normal when making demands – and perhaps also radicalized elements within them. We must undoubtedly understand the surveillance applied to the media, also as a means of preventing them from collecting comments that could harm the cause. Hence a clear distribution of tasks within the movement: media, security, care.

This mode of organization, the spatial deployment of the occupation movement, placed in plain view, in the middle of Uni Mail in Geneva, with its workshop of banners and painted letters, is reminiscent of Nuit Debout, a social movement which had occupied the Place de la République in Paris for three months in the spring of 2016.

So, as far as the press is concerned, “journalists, your papers!”, this is not acceptable.

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