While covering a second day of protests against mandatory vaccinations in Melbourne, Channel 7 reporter Paul Dowsley and news crew were abused by protestors. “I’ve been grabbed around the neck today, I’ve had urine tipped on me, now I’ve had a can of energy drink thrown on me,” Dowsley said. He said that members of the media were being targeted deliberately by the protestors.
The rallies, which have grown increasingly violent, are in opposition to mandatory Covid-19 vaccines for construction workers in the state of Victoria. The marches were ostensibly organised by the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), though it is reported that the union communications were infiltrated and distorted by far-right extremists and anti-vax proponents.
In its statement, MEAA suggests that police as well as protestors pursued media workers reporting the event and said it had filed a complaint to Victoria Police regarding the treatment of journalists covering earlier protests on September 18. The complaint details at least four instances where media workers were manhandled, capsicum sprayed and detained during the course of their reporting. On September 18, photographer for The Age, Luis Ascui was pepper sprayed directly in the eyes by police. Ascui had repeatedly identified himself as a member of the media.
MEAA’s media section federal vice-president, Karen Percy, said: “Police and protesters must accept that the media provides an essential service, particularly during the pandemic, in keeping our community informed. Journalists are neutral observers, simply doing a job. An attack on one journalist, is an attack on us all.”
The IFJ said: “We condemn the aggressive and degrading acts against media workers by members of the public and police. We call on Victoria Police to respond to the complaints to ensure that Australia’s journalists are able to work without fear of undue harassment.”