Reporters Without Borders calls on the Greek authorities to publicly condemn cases of police violence against journalists during the demonstrations of the past few weeks and to give the police clear instructions not to use violence against media personnel in the future. The press freedom organization also demands an investigation into the recent cases.
The level of violence employed by the police has been outrageous. 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,” Reporters Without Borders 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 6 December 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 Reporters Without Borders correspondent in Greece was physically accosted by police several times on 6 December 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 17 November. He filed a complaint.
The demonstrations taking place on 6 December, 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 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, a sharp fall from last year, when it was ranked 35th.