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South Korea 13 March 2007

Riot police club journalists covering protest

Reporters Without Borders wrote to Korean police chief Lee Taek-Soon today to call for an investigation into the use of violence by riot police against 10 journalists covering a protest in Seoul on 10 March and the punishment of those responsible.

"This incident highlights how difficult it is for the press to cover banned demonstrations safely," the press freedom organisation said. "It is important that the authorities investigate the behaviour of the police and the deliberate use of violence. Some of the police clearly forgot that the journalists were there to cover the events and not to participate."

The violence occurred at around 6 p.m. on 10 March when riot police dispersed a banned protest against free-trade talks between South Korea and the United States. Park Young-Heum of the KyungHyang newspaper, photographer Kim Chul-Soo, reporter Kim Tae-Hwan, Choi Won-Hyung of the HanKyuRae Daily News, a journalist with the Ohmynews website, three reporters working for the Yonhap news agency and a KBS television crew were all beaten by police with batons.

The Seoul police issued a statement the next day regretting the violence against the press and proposing solutions to guarantee the safety of journalists in subsequent demonstrations. But it made no mention of sanctions being taken against those responsible.

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