Europe: Growing attacks against journalists covering Covid-19 protests

Attacks against journalists covering anti-lockdown protests and demonstrations by Covid-sceptics are on the rise in Europe, a new report has revealed. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed its deep concerns over this growing violence towards media workers and urged governments and media employers to guarantee journalists' safety.

German police keep watch during a demonstration against the current measures of the German government to curb the spread of the COVID-19 in Leipzig. Credits: JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP

Since the beginning of the second Covid-19 wave in Europe and the enforcement of new mobility restrictions, public anger and violent mprotests have grown over the handling of the crisis, leading to multiple attacks on journalists.

The International Press Institute (IPI)'s Covid press freedom tracker, thas documented 482 media freedom violations around the world since the pandemic began, 58 of those incidents occuring in Europe including assaults, threats and intimidation against journalists covering demonstrations in Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, and Portugal.

The level of attacks has grown rapidly in cities like Leipzig, where 43 journalists faced harassment during the “Querdenken” demonstration on 7 November, and in Italian cities including Rome, Naples, and Florence, where 14 journalists were involved in at least nine incidents over a three week period in October.

The growing number of incidents have increased journalists' unions' concerns, amid claimed employers are not doing enough to protect journalists in the field. 

One of the most shocking cases took place in Slovenia in early November when photojournalist Borut Živulovič was hospitalized after being hit in the head by an unidentified man who was in the middle of the crowd protesting about measures designed to combat the spread of Covid. He required surgery and titanium plates to repair his jaw.

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “We are deeply concerned over the growing hostilities media workers face while performing their duty to report on public demonstrations. Governments must ensure journalists can work in a safe environment and media employers must provide safety equipment and support to their workers when reporting on these kind of events".

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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