Paris, France, Nov 29 – News outlets including Agence-France Presse joined media rights campaigners Sunday in denouncing the injury of an award-winning Syrian photojournalist during a Paris protest against police brutality.
Ameer Alhalbi, a freelance photographer who has worked for Polka Magazine and AFP, was covering Saturday’s demonstrations opposing police violence and the French government’s plans to restrict sharing images of officers.
In AFP photos Alhalbi’s face appears 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” and condemned the “intolerable” violence.
“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.
AFP and Polka also condemned the incident in statements Sunday.
“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.
“Ameer was working together with a group of colleagues who were clearly identified as journalists,” he added.
“We demand the police investigate this serious incident and ensure all journalists are allowed to carry out their work without fear or restrictions.”
– ‘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.
Dimitri Beck, Polka’s director of photography, said Alhalbi had suffered a broken nose and injured forehead and been taken to hospital.
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 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.
A number of 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.