Media outlets spoke out on Sunday about the injuries that 24-year-old Syrian photojournalist Ameer al Halbi suffered during a protest in Paris the previous day over the ongoing issue of police brutality and a new security bill that offers increased protection to law enforcement at the sacrifice of freedom of expression.
Thousands turned out for The March of Freedoms, which kicked off at the Place de la Republique square and ended at Place de la Bastille.
Al Halbi, an award-winning photojournalist, was bloodied during the demonstration after being reportedly hit by police batons, according to a tweet by Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire.
The freelance photographer works on behalf of Agence-France Presse (AFP) as well as Polka magazine.
According to the Al-Jazeera Media Network, Dimitri Beck, Polka’s director of photography, related that Al Halbi had suffered an injured forehead and a broken nose and had been transported to the hospital. The photographer then posted images of himself on Twitter, his head and jaw swathed in bandages, blood pouring out of his nose and his left eye visibly swollen.
On Sunday, AFP had asked for an investigation, which was opened, according to a police source who spoke to the French daily Le Monde, to determine the cause of the injuries.
AFP Global News Director Phil Chetwynd was similarly stunned, according to reporting by Al-Jazeera.
“We are shocked by the injuries suffered by our colleague Ameer al Halbi and condemn the unprovoked violence. The injuries were sustained as he exercised his legal rights as a photojournalist documenting protests on the streets of Paris.”
Unrest increased as the evening settled in. Fires were set to street furniture in the afternoon, but by 7 p.m., several cars, a kiosk and a brasserie had been set ablaze along with the facade of the Banque de France on the Place de la Bastille. A total of 81 arrests were made.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin issued a statement Saturday condemning the “unacceptable violence against the police” but swiftly ran to their side after learning that a reported 100 officers were wounded during the course of events.
“I give them my full support. The perpetrators of this violence must be prosecuted,” he said via Twitter.
The protest caps a spate of extreme police brutality that has gripped France of late. On Nov. 21, three officers accosted and attacked music producer Michel Zecler inside a studio in Paris’s 17th arrondissement, causing him extensive injury. As they left, one officer tossed a teargas grenade through the studio window, The officers later lied on the report filed on the event. Darmanin suspended the group, who remain in custody
Last Monday, police also cleared a migrant camp on Paris’s Place de la Republique in the 11th arrondissement, an unnecessary and harsh action in which several migrants were seen beaten in footage that went viral.
Saturday’s demonstration was also called in light of a comprehensive security bill adopted by the National Assembly on Tuesday which contains a controversial section, Article 24, that prohibits taking photos of police in the line of duty and disseminating those images online and in the press. Violators face a year-long prison sentence and a €45,000 ($53,853) fine.
Journalists, press organizations and human rights groups have all denounced it as an attack on freedom of expression.
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