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Watchdog blasts police treatment of reporters in migrant crisis

20 October 2015, 16:10

Belgrade - Media watchdog Reporters without Borders on Tuesday condemned the "unacceptable pattern" of police mistreating journalists who are covering the ongoing refugee crisis at European border crossings.

The criticism came a day after Croatian police at the Serbian border pushed AFP photographer Andrej Isakovic to the ground without explanation, and threw his two cameras into a field where he could not retrieve them for several hours.

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At the same Berkasovo crossing point, Isakovic saw them seize and throw the camera of a British freelance journalist, while Reuters news agency reported that Croatian police hit one of its cameramen and threatened to smash his kit.

"Incidents against reporters involving police officers on the borders are becoming an unacceptable pattern we can only denounce," said Alexandra Geneste, head of the EU-Balkans office at Reporters Without Borders, which is known by its French abbreviation RSF.

"Violence against journalists who are covering the refugee crisis is simply appalling," Geneste said in an email.

Last month, the Paris-based RSF censured Hungarian police for obstructing foreign media coverage of the migrants' situation at the Hungary-Serbia border, particularly for using force against journalists on three occasions.

On Monday, a statement from Croatia's interior ministry said two foreign news agency reporters had "joined the migration wave and entered Croatia at an illegal border crossing" in violation of its laws.

But Isakovic said his press credentials had been checked by police when he arrived at Berkasovo and he was on Serbian soil close to migrants' tents when Croatian officers approached him, shouting and swearing.

"First they asked me to give them my memory cards and I refused. After that they pushed me to the ground and took my cameras," Isakovic said.

"I didn't provoke them in any way. I was not even taking pictures, I was just inspecting what was going on."

RSF called on Croatian authorities "to prevent the police from engaging in threats and violence of this kind".

"Nothing can justify such violations of media freedom," said the watchdog.



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