Police Officer Allegedly Attacks Photojournalist Covering Portuguese Strike
IPI Condemns Incident, Calls on Authorities to Investigate
By: Steven M. Ellis, IPI Press Freedom Adviser for Europe & North America
VIENNA, Mar. 23, 2012 – The International Press Institute (IPI) condemned an alleged attack by a police officer on a photojournalist covering a general strike in Lisbon yesterday.
Reuters released an image it said showed a police officer striking Agence France-Presse (AFP) photojournalist Patricia Melo as she covered the strike called by Portugal’s biggest trade union confederation to protest austerity measures and labour reforms.
IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills said: “This photo is a chilling reminder of the dangers journalists face, even in Western democracies. Journalists have a right to cover events of public significance and police officers have a duty to respect that role. We call on Portuguese authorities to demonstrate that violence against journalists is not acceptable by conducting a full, transparent and swift investigation into this incident, and to hold anyone determined to have been involved in assaulting the journalist accountable.”
AP reported that the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers, representing more than 600,000 mostly blue-collar and public sector workers, called the 24-hour stoppage to fight policies enacted following last May's 78 billion-euro bailout. The news agency said the strike disrupted public transport services, but that turnout for protests was mostly patchy.
The Reuters image appears to show a baton-wielding officer in mid-swing as Melo falls to the ground and observers look on with horror. The AFP released photos yesterday attributed to Melo that appeared to have been taken moments before the incident and in which a number of police officers wielding batons chase demonstrators.