Journalists suffer violence and vandalism at G8 riots

 

Amnesty International and the International Federation of Journalists are protesting over violence against UK journalists in Genoa covering the G8 summit last weekend.

One is in hospital with serious injuries and others claim to have been beaten up.

IFJ general secretary Aidan White claims that a police raid on a centre occupied by Indymedia, a volunteer network of alternative media set up before the 1999 Seattle protest, was a "deliberate attempt to seize ph0to-graphs and video footage of earlier police actions and is a serious violation of journalists’ rights to gather information without interference".

Undercover Sunday Times reporter John Elliott led the front page with his account of being beaten up by police despite his protests – in Italian – that he was an English journalist. He told Press Gazette: "It was clearly a professional duffing-up – they got me on muscle not bone."

Paul Mattsson, a London freelance photographer, was assaulted by black-hooded rioters who put his head through a shop window, kicked him and trashed his camera equipment. He claims he was intimidated by the police when he reported the incident.

A plastic bullet had earlier smashed into his leg destroying six rolls of film in his pocket, a teargas canister was thrown at his head and pepper was hurled at him.

Mattsson went to the police station, but he said: "They weren’t interested in what had happened to me or my gear. What happened was worse than the kicking I got. I was on my own in there and they started aggressively questioning me about what I was doing there and if I knew any of the protesters. I was told to sit on the floor. I was being treated like a suspect. Down a corridor I could hear people screaming."

In far worse shape is Markus Covell, a volunteer reporter for Indymedia. On Tuesday he was still in hospital, off the critical list but with a punctured lung, head and other injuries, and under arrest for "riot".

BBC staffer Bill Hayton, who took leave to report from Genoa as a freelance and was in the centre during the raid, said: "I looked out of the [centre] window and saw a small figure in the foetal position on the pavement, not moving.

"I didn’t realise at first it was Markus. Then the police burst in and made us all stand against the wall. I saw them take 10 minidisks of interviews, and they took three computer hard disks with legal notes from another office in the building." The Italian Federation of Journalists (FNSI) has called for a criminal investigation into the "indiscriminate raid", claiming police dressed up in tabards identical to those it issues to accredited members.

 

By Mike Holderness and Jean Morgan

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