The International Federation of Journalists today criticised Swiss police over "heavy-handed and reckless" action against demonstrators at the weekend which led to a British freelance photographer, Guy Smallman, suffering serious injuries when he was shot with a stun grenade fired by riot police in Geneva.
Smallman is an experienced photographer from London, who has covered anti-globalisation protests for several years. He was working for the agency Images Sans Frontières, and was covering the protests surrounding the G8 summit on Sunday, when German riot police fired into the demonstration. He tried to run away, but was injured when a grenade exploded near him. He suffered serious muscle damage to his leg and underwent surgery in Geneva.
"There should be a full inquiry into this incident," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, "By all accounts the police action was heavy-handed, reckless and put media people covering the event at risk."
The IFJ says that more muscular policing of international summit meetings has made media coverage increasingly difficult in recent years.
"Journalists now find themselves routinely in the firing line when they leave their offices to cover a demonstration," said White. "It is essential that the authorities exercise restraint." In this case witnesses claim the police appeared to be out of control, insulting, provoking, shouting and firing upon demonstrators.
The IFJ says that media staff have been injured while covering anti-globalisation marches and demonstrations in a number of incidents surrounding major events in Europe and North America. "Too heavy policing at these events is not only dangerous for media people who are covering events, it also suggests a new intolerance over forms of dissent that should be unacceptable in settled democracies," said the IFJ.
The IFJ and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists in the UK and Ireland have protested about the incident to the Swiss authorities.