News

November 26, 2019

Greek police must be trained to respect journalists, RSF says

Police chase protesters at Athens' notorious Exarchia district square, after the annual march towards the US embassy on November 17, 2019 in Athens/ AFP
After last week’s police attack on a reporter covering a demonstration marking the 46th anniversary of the Athens Polytechnic uprising, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Greek authorities to lose no time in training the police to respect journalists and to refrain from subjecting them to abuse under any pretext.

Despite a change of government in Greece, journalists continue to have problems covering street protests and demonstrations because the police have become accustomed to using violence on the streets ever since the 2008 crisis and the ensuing anti-austerity protests.

 

During the demonstration on the 17 November anniversary of a student uprising against the military dictatorship, reporter Marios Aravantinos was filming police attacking passers-by when some of the police turned on him.

 

In an interview for a local media outlet, Aravantinos said one of the police officers suddenly noticed him and shouted, “What are you filming?” He then struck the reporter’s left shoulder, a second officer pushed him with his riot shield and a third hit the hand in which he was holding his phone. “I told them I was a journalist but they paid no attention,” he added.

 

The authorities described the anniversary demonstration as a “big success” although the day was marked by violence and many arrests.

 

The police must be given not only training but also an explicit order to respect journalists who are just doing their job by covering riots and other events,” said Pauline Adès-Mevel, the head of RSF’s European Union and Balkans desk. “The new Greek government should make a point of no longer tolerating such excesses and violence against journalists.”

 

The first measure to be approved by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the prime minister who replaced Alexis Tsipras in July, was the repeal of a law that banned the police from entering university campuses – a law adopted following the 1973 uprising against the military junta. There is concern that the new government’s tough approach to law enforcement could lead to an increase in violations of free speech and press freedom.

 

Greece is ranked 65th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.