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France27 September 2004

Photographer hurt by stun grenade thrown by police

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the police use of a stun grenade against Georges Bartoli, a freelance photographer working for the news agency Reuters, while he was covering a protest against genetically-modified crops on 25 September in Valdivienne.

Bartoli sustained minor injuries to the legs when the grenade detonated and he had to be hospitalised.

"We call on you to carry out an investigation to establish the circumstance that led the police to throw a grenade at this photographer," the organisation said in a letter to Vienne prefect Bernard Prévost.

"The fact that he was clearly identifiable as a photographer - wearing a press armlet and with two cameras hanging from his neck - and the fact that he was keeping his distance from the protesters suggest that he was deliberately targeted, in which case exemplary punishments are called for," Reporters Without Borders added.

Some 15 people were injured at Valdivienne when police clashed with demonstrators who had come to cut down a field of genetically-modified maize. Bartoli said he was on his own, at some distance from the demonstrators and just a few metres from the police, and clearly identifiable as a journalist, when the stun grenade was thrown in his direction.

Alain Darrigrand, a reporter with France 2, and Christophe Garnier of LCI and TF1 also said they were deliberately targeted by the police. In a joint statement, they said they were filming the demonstration from a place where they were on their own and easily identifiable by their cameras when the police threw tear gas and a stun grenade from a distance of one metre.

They said: "This action targeted us as journalists and was designed to prevent us filming at the height of the demonstration. It succeeded, because we unable to carry on doing our work as reporters for several minutes after this attack."

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