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Riot police deliberately attack journalists covering street demonstrations

April 12, 2012

Reporters Without Borders roundly condemns a new wave of deliberate attacks on reporters and photographers in Athens and calls on the security forces to immediately identify those persons within their ranks who were responsible.

“The respite was short,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The riot police, who were criticized after the abuses of last summer and autumn, seem to have recovered their repressive instincts. The deliberate nature of the latest attacks leaves no doubt about this.

“In particular, Marios Lolos, a very well-known media figure, was clearly targeted during a peaceful demonstration while in a group of clearly identified journalists. Did they want to punish him for his union activities? Are they trying to intimidate all the media as Greece’s social revolt continues to grow? This unacceptable behaviour must be fully investigated and the police officers responsible for assaulting journalists must be severely punished.”

Lolos, who works as a photographer for the New China news agency and heads the Union of Greek Photojournalists (EFE), is currently hospitalized as a result of being beaten over the head by a member of the MAT riot police near Syntagma Square in Athens yesterday. He is in a serious condition and has undergone surgery to the skull.

All accounts concur that the situation was calm when Lolos was attacked and the photojournalists, who had come to cover a tribute to the pensioner who took his life the previous day, were not wearing helmets or gas-masks. Makis Synodinos of the newspaper Naftemporiki and Star TV reporter Panagiotis Bousios were also among those injured during the deliberate charge by a MAT unit.

Journalists were also injured during clashes between demonstrators and riot police on the evening of 4 April. Rena Maniou of Antenna TV had to be rushed to hospital in an ambulance after receiving a baton blow to the back of her neck. Dionysis Vythoulkas of To Vima and Giorgos Gerafentis of NET were among the other journalists who were roughed up by the MAT.

Anthee Carassava of Sky News and the Los Angeles Times was attacked by police while covering a military parade on Syntagma Square from the parliament on 25 March. Although she had all the required accreditation and was moving away when told by the police, an officer on duty threatened to remove her by force and tried to grab the phone with which she had recorded his voice.

He was joined by three other police officers, who manhandled Carassava and dragged her into the courtyard of the parliament building. The mistreatment stopped only when a policewoman intervened.

As Carassava left, she tried to identify her assailants. They reacted by taking her to a police station and threatening her. As she tried to established the grounds on which they were holding her in a room in the police station, they tried to intimidate her by threatening to arrest her and “do what we want” with her.

In a report published on 14 September 2011, Reporters Without Borders highlighted the decline in media freedom in Greece and urged the police to respect the right of journalists to cover street demonstrations.

For more information contact:
Reporters without Borders
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84

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