February 20, 2012 - Updated on January 20, 2016

News photographers are not police auxiliaries

Reporters Without Border strongly condemns the Greek police’s illegal use of photos taken during the 12 February protests in Athens by photographers working for AFP, AP, Reuters, EFE and local news agencies. The police posted the photos on a government website together with an appeal for witnesses to identify those allegedly responsible for the violence, and only took some of them down after formal protests from the news agencies.

“We are outraged by what the police did, which was not only illegal but also directly threatened the safety of news agency and freelance photographers,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The police have ample resources for their enquiries, including the security cameras for which maintaining law and order is always cited as grounds for their installation and use. The purpose of new agency photos is informing the public, not use by law enforcement agencies.

“We have for months been repeating that news photographers are not police auxiliaries. The copyright and editorial control of their work must be fully respected. Their safety is now clearly threatened by such behaviour, which helps to fuel a sterile and baseless controversy about supposed media collaboration with the police.

“It is already very difficult to contain the anger and vengefulness of some of the demonstrators, who are becoming more violent towards the media. The outrageous attitude of the authorities in this case is not going to make things easier and could have disastrous consequences.

“We call on the interior ministry to quickly issue a formal statement recognizing that the use of these news agency photos was illegal and violated the rights of the photographers, who appreciate the scale of the harm done. We also demand a serious investigation with the aim of identifying the persons who took the decision to download the photos and post them online.

“Investigations of actions in the field often prove complicated but this investigation just concerns internal communication services in which it should be much easier to establish who was responsible, if the will exists. Sanctions must be imposed.

“After our visit to Greece in August 2011 and our meeting with the interior minister, we had hoped for an improvement in relations between the Greek authorities and the national and international media, but we are clearly still far from this.”

(Photo: Angelos Tzortzinis - AFP)