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Greece7 July 2008

Sipa Press photographer arrested and beaten while taking photos inside port

French photographer Olivier Jobard of the Sipa Press agency was arrested and beaten by a coastguard officer on 4 July while taking photos in the port of Patras, in northern Peloponnese, for a report on immigrants. Detained by the police on charges of “resisting an authority” and “physical injury,” he was released the next day pending a trial, which was due to begin today.

For years, a special permit has for been necessary for anyone taking photos within Greece’s ports, which are regarded as military or high-security areas.

Jobard told Reporters Without Borders that Sipa Press requested a permit for him but it had not been issued by the time he needed to begin working. He took photos without any problem on 3 July, when he was questioned twice by port guards and was allowed to continue working after showing them, at their request, the pictures he had been taking.

Jobard was taking photos on a landing stage in the presence of a group of tourists at around 5 p.m. on 4 July, when a coastguard officer stopped him and tried to take his cameras from him. When Jobard hung on to his equipment, the guard forcibly dragged him into a nearby public toilet, pushed him inside, handcuffed him and hit him several times in the face. He then pulled out a knife, cut the strap of Jobard’s camera, threw the camera to the ground and smashed it with his foot.

After being released the next day, Jobard filed a complaint against the officer for assault and battery.

The head of the Patras harbour-master’s office today told Reporters Without Borders that Jobard was detained while taking photos from behind a tree. He claimed that Jobard resisted when asked to show his permit, and kicked the guard several times. On the basis of a forensic doctor’s report, the guard filed a complaint against Jobard for assault, he added.

“While one can understand why the Greek authorities might insist on permits for photography in port areas, we can only condemn the violence used by the guard when arresting Jobard,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The authorities have other means at their disposal for carrying out the necessary checks without using methods for which there is no place in the European Union.”

The press freedom organisation added : “Several Greek news media have criticised Jobard, essentially giving only the official version of the incident. While Jobard may have broken a regulation, his investigation into the problems of immigration and what life is like for immigrants deserves support.”

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