News

March 4, 2020

Reporters in Greece must be protected from attack by anti-migrant residents

Lesbos / AFP
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the attacks in recent days by residents of the Greek island of Lesbos against journalists covering migrants arriving from Turkey, and calls on the Greek and European authorities to protect the journalists and prevent these serious press freedom violations.

A group of residents – who were masked, dressed in black and armed with sticks  – threw stones at the car of German journalists Julian Bush et Franziska Grillmeier on the evening of 2 March, while Quentin Warlop, a reporter for Belgian public broadcaster RTBF, was roughed up.

 

These attacks were preceded by three others. The German news magazine Der Spiegel’s local correspondent, Giorgos Christides, was threatened, harassed and chased while in a car. After German freelance photographer Michael Trammer sustained a serious head injury and his cameras were thrown in the sea, he announced on Twitter that he no longer felt safe and would prefer to leave the island. And Raphael Knipping, a freelance photographer who was present during the attack on Trammer, was himself subjected to kicks and blows with his tripod.

 

Despite Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s promise to stop the violence, the situation on the ground is degenerating day by day,” RSF editor-in-chief Pauline Adès-Mevel said. “The Greek and European authorities must take immediate and effective action against this outbreak of violence by residents, and must guarantee journalists’ safety so that they can cover these important events. These attacks must be condemned and punished.”

 

The leading targets of the violence are members of international migrant defence organizations, who are accused of facilitating new migrant arrivals. After the Greek government announced that construction was beginning on new migrant reception centres on five Aegean islands to replace the existing, overcrowded ones, residents opposed to this plan clashed violently with riot police.It is against this backdrop that journalists covering the clashes have themselves been targeted. Such attacks are far from unprecedented in Greece, where reporters covering migrant issues are often attacked by radical groups.

 

The situation is just as bad in the Evros region, along the land border between Greece and Turkey, where the Greek authorities have blocked the entry of around 10,000 migrants in the space of 24 hours. CNN Greece stringer Kostas Pliakos says residents hit him and stole his mobile phone.

 

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