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Greece: Unacceptable police violence against journalists covering demonstrations

Demonstrations go on: A metro worker holds a banner outside the Greek parliament in Athens during a 24-hour strike by public transport , on Wednesday, December 8, 2010. Strikes halted public transport in Athens for 24 hours, in the latest display of union opposition to austerity measures in crisis-hit Greece.

There have been a number of cases of police violence in Greece against journalists during the demonstrations of the past few weeks, according to Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF). The level of violence employed by the police has been outrageous, it reported.

Journalists said they were thrown to the ground and beaten, or were prevented from working by use of physical force. The police have also forced some journalists, including the Reporters Without Borders correspondent, to delete the photographs they had taken.

“Journalists have a duty to provide the public with coverage of newsworthy events including demonstrations,” RSF said. “The police should not treat them as if they were demonstrators. Furthermore, the police have no right to demand that they are not photographed while performing official duties. If they are behaving in a strictly legal manner, they should have nothing to hide.”

In one of the latest cases, Belgian news photographer Maxime Gyselinck was thrown to the ground and repeatedly hit by police at around 7:30 p.m. on December 6 on Benaki Street in the Athens district of Exarchia. When Greek freelance photographer Vangelis Patsialos went to help him, he was treated in exactly the same way.

The police finally stopped hitting them when they realised they were journalists. One of the policemen then advised them to go to a hospital. Gyselinck was diagnosed with a fractured arm that was put in a plaster and a cracked rib, and was told to stop working for two weeks.

The RSF correspondent in Greece was physically accosted by police several times on December 6 while photographing the way anti-riot police were using violence against protesters. The police ordered to delete her photos but she refused to comply.

In an earlier case, Agence France-Presse photographer Aristotelis Messinis was manhandled by police three times while covering a demonstration in Athens on November 17. He filed a complaint.

The demonstrations taking place on December 6, which were dispersed by anti-riot police, were to mark the second anniversary of the death of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, a 15-year-old youth who was shot dead by the police in the Athens district of Exarchia in 2008.

Greece was ranked 70th in this year’s RSF press freedom index, a sharp fall from last year, when it was ranked 35th.

Date posted: December 10, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 136