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Gibraltar21 January 2003

Police arrest 14 journalists off Gibraltar coast

14 journalists were arrested by Gibraltan police on January 20 2003, while covering an operation by the environmentalist organisation Greenpeace against the docking of the oil tanker Vegamagna off the coast of Gibraltar.The tanker, built in 1978, had been taking part in dumping activity for the Gibraltan company Vemaoil.

"We strongly protest the arrest of these journalists while they were engaged in performing their professional duties and we ask you to shed any possible light regarding this arrest at sea which could have placed the lives of the journalists in danger", Reporters Without Borders Director Robert Ménard said in a letter to British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

The 14 journalists had boarded three dinghys alongside six Greenpeace protesters and were arrested by Gibraltan police at around 10:30. They were working for the Spanish dailies El Pais and El Mundo, the international news agency Associated Press, the private television channels RTVE and Canal Sur and the local paper Europa Sur.

A cameraman Virgilio Moreno and Jose Martin from the private channel Telecinco were released at around 22:30 following payment of a fine of 1,600 euros.

They have been ordered to appear before judicial authorities on January 21 for insulting a police officer and failure to comply with police requests.

According to Isaias Bueno, a cameraman from the RTVE channel and Mario Rodriguez, the leader of the Greenpeace protest, the arrests were carried out in a dangerous and violent manner.

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