Swiss officials have agreed to meet the NUJ to discuss the case of a freelance photographer hit in the leg by a police stun grenade.
Guy Smallman was working for UK-based news agency Images sans FrontierÃ¨s covering anti-G8 protests in Geneva two weeks ago when he had a fist-sized hole blown out of his leg.
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Late this week he was recovering from a skin-graft operation at a Swiss hospital and does not yet know whether he will make a full recovery.
A demonstration involving around 50 photographers and NUJ members was held outside the Swiss Embassy in London on Friday to protest against Smallman’s wounding.
Afterwards Embassy officials released a statement saying they would arrange a meeting with the NUJ. Swiss ambassador Bruno Spinner said: “Demonstrators have the right to protest under Swiss and British law.
“Switzerland welcomes such freedom of speech and encourages dialogue with mutual respect between all cultures and beliefs.”
The statement added: “During the anti-G8 demonstration in Geneva some protesters fired fireworks at police, injuring at least one officer. The police replied by firing stun grenades, one of which apparently unintentionally injured Mr Smallman on the left leg.
“The Cantonal Police apologises for this incident. However, it appears that some journalists and photographers took undue risks while covering the demonstration. The Swiss authorities regret that Mr Smallman has been hurt.”
Speaking from his hospital bed, the injured photographer responded by saying: “It was the police that attacked everyone so I don’t know how that could have been predicted -how that can be taken as me taking a risk is just ridiculous. I was running for my life up a stone staircase – according to a witness an officer came up behind me and fired multiple stun grenades at me from point blank range. How can I guard against that?”
Smallman, from South London, gave short shrift to Swiss police and justice minister Micheline Spoerri when she turned up outside his hospital room with a photographer earlier this week.
He said: “I refused to have her let in the room – I’m not going to be turned into someone else’s photo opportunity.”
NUJ spokesman Tim Gopsill said: “The fact that 50 photographers turned out at a couple of days notice to the demonstration is an indication of how strongly they feel about this.
“The Swiss are shame-faced enough about this to invite the NUJ for talks – we are really hoping we will get somewhere in our demand for an explanation of the conduct of the police and how Guy came to get shot in the leg.”
By Dominic Ponsford