Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns police violence against press photographers and reporters covering the protests that have taken place this month in Spain, including those that accompanied Pope Benedict XVI’s visit during the World Youth Day celebrations held in Madrid from 16 to 21 August.
“We are dismayed by the behaviour of the security forces,” Reporters Without Borders said. “At least six reporters and photographers have been deliberately attacked or beaten this month although they had clearly identified themselves to the authorities. There are too many cases to dismiss them as just mistakes committed in the heat of the moment.
“It seems the police did not appreciate the presence of journalists who disseminated photos and video footage of the rather harsh methods they used to disperse the protests by supporters of a secular state and others.”
A press card has sufficed to identify journalists until now even it does not always get the respect it deserves. We urge those in charge of the police to reissue clear instructions as to how the media should be treated during demonstrations and we urge reporters and photographers to keep their press accreditation.
We draw the government’s attention to that fact that taking photos in public places is not a privilege reserved for journalists but a right that every citizen is guaranteed under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Drawing up new agreements on photographing and filming is not desirable and could result in restrictions on freedom of information.
The police officers responsible for these acts of unwarranted and uncontrolled violence must be the subject of thorough investigations. Some of our media colleagues almost certainly have enough evidence to ensure that they can be prosecuted. A failure to pursue such investigations to their conclusion would just serve to condone this behaviour and encourage its recurrence.
In one of this month’s most serious cases, Gorka Ramos, a journalist with the international section of the news website La Informacion.com, was arrested and beaten by police while covering a demonstration outside the interior ministry in Madrid on 4 August.
A police officer began by hitting him in the stomach although he had just shown his press ID. Eleven other policemen then surrounded him and hit him repeatedly all over his body to the amazement of the other journalists present. The video footage that a cameraman shot of the incident has served to refute the claims of the police that Ramos insulted them.
Five other journalists have been physically attacked during August. Lidia Ucher and Patricia Horrillo were insulted, threatened and attacked while out reporting on 17 August. Daniel Nuevo, a photographer who works for the Día de Córdoba newspaper, was beating by policemen on the night of 18 August while covering a secularist protest against the pope’s visit.
Jonas Candalija of Red Europea, Manuel Cuéllar of El País and freelance photographer Gonzalo Arroyo were also the victims of similar attacks.