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France13 June 2003

Paris police manhandle freelance photographer, seize camera

Reporters Without Borders today protested against the action of the Paris police in manhandling freelance photographer Benjamin Béchet and abruptly confiscating his camera without any explanation as he was covering a demonstration on 10 June at the Garnier opera house.

"We are outraged by the unacceptable methods used by the police to prevent this press photographer from practising his profession," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to police chief Jean-Paul Proust. "I ask you to provide us with an explanation of this incident and to arrange for the camera to be returned to Béchet at once," Ménard added.

Béchet went to Opera Square at around 10 p.m. to cover negotiations between police and about 100 demonstrators shut inside the Garnier opera. A person wearing a plain-clothes policeman’s orange armband tried to grab his camera as he began to take photographs of a series of arrests. When Béchet resisted, shouting that he was a journalist, three members of the riot police pinned him to the ground and handed his camera to the plain-clothes policeman. They then released him but did not take a note of his identity and he was not told how he could recover his camera.

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