News organisations and media rights advocates have denounced and expressed shock at the injuries suffered by award-winning Syrian photojournalist Ameer Alhalbi during a protest in Paris against police brutality.
Alhalbi, a freelance photographer who has worked for Polka magazine and AFP news agency, was covering Saturday’s demonstrations opposing police violence and the French government’s plans to restrict sharing images of officers.
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Dimitri Beck, Polka’s director of photography, said Alhalbi had suffered a broken nose and injured forehead and been taken to hospital. Photos showed Alhalbi’s face bruised, with much of his head covered in bandages.
Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, tweeted that the 24-year-old had been wounded at Place de la Bastille by “a police baton”.
“Ameer came from Syria to France to take refuge, like several other Syrian journalists. The land of human rights should not threaten them, but protect them,” he said in a second tweet, condemning the “intolerable” violence.
“We are shocked by the injuries suffered by our colleague Ameer al-Halbi and condemn the unprovoked violence,” said Phil Chetwynd, AFP’s global news director.
“The injuries were sustained as he exercised his legal rights as a photojournalist documenting protests on the streets of Paris.”
Chetwynd demanded police officials investigate Alhalbi’s beating to ensure “all journalists are allowed to carry out their work without fear or restrictions”.
Award winning #Syria|n photojournalist Ameer AlHalabi, has was assaulted by cops in #Paris while covering protests against a law giving cops immunity!
What kind of example is this setting for the dictators & media suppressors in the world? #JournalismIsNotACrime pic.twitter.com/q8c4uAKh9o
— Zaina Erhaim (@ZainaErhaim) November 29, 2020
‘Shocking and reprehensible’
A statement from Polka magazine also condemned the “police aggression” against Alhalbi.
The magazine’s Director of Publication Alain Genestar said the incident was “all the more shocking and reprehensible” because he was clearly identified as a press photographer.
Alhalbi has won several international awards, including second prize in the “Spot News” category for the World Press Photo in 2017, mainly for his coverage of the Syrian conflict in his home city Aleppo for AFP.
Police said on Sunday that two demonstrators had complained of being hurt by officers in protests outside Paris, while no count had yet been made in the capital itself.
Some 62 police officers were injured during the Saturday demonstrations, the interior ministry said, while 81 people were arrested.
Several videos shared online showed marchers beating police officers.
The interior ministry added that 133,000 people had taken part in the demonstrations, 46,000 of them in Paris, while organisers said the figure was 500,000 nationwide and 200,000 in Paris.
The protests come as President Emmanuel Macron’s government is trying to push a new bill that restricts the ability to film police, raising concerns it would allow police brutality to go undiscovered and unpunished.
The controversy was intensified by a video showing the beating and racial abuse of a Black man earlier this week.
The case of Michel Zecler shocked France, with celebrities and politicians alike condemning the officers’ actions.
Macron on Friday called the incident an “unacceptable attack” and asked the government to come up with proposals to “fight against discrimination”.