The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Greek officials should investigate attacks on reporters covering the arrival of migrants and refugees on the island of Lesbos, assaulted after trying to document islanders keeping away a boat with women and children.
“Greek authorities must quickly and thoroughly investigate the attacks on reporters covering refugee movements on the island of Lesvos and ensure that they can continue their reporting safely and without fear,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said in New York.
“Greek police have an obligation to protect members of the press,” she said, with video footage showing German photojournalist Michael Trammer being beaten and kicked to the ground by a furious mob before some Greeks tried to stop it.
A group of locals attempted to stop a dinghy carrying migrants from coming in to berth at Thermi port and attacked the reporters who were capturing it, trying to prevent any coverage of the event.
Επίθεση σε μέλη ΜΚΟ στο λιμάνι της Θέρμης στη Λέσβο. Πέταξαν τις κάμερές τους στη θάλασσα. pic.twitter.com/UYvzfgFwNN
— SKAI.gr (@skaigr) March 1, 2020
Freelance photojournalist Michael Trammer, freelance photographer Raphael Knipping, Der Spiegel reporter Giorgos Christides and freelance photojournalist Julian Busch were among those targeted by unknown assailants, CPJ said.
They shouted insults at a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) official and attacked journalists and photographers covering the event, said the Turkish pro-government newspaper The Daily Sabah.
Members of the group were seen violently attacking and kicking Trammer, who later tweeted about the incident.
“My cameras were thrown in the water. I was beaten and kicked heavily. This lasted a while. No police on site, also as I left. Some locals that disagreed with what the attackers did took care of me,” Trammer tweeted, sharing photos and videos from before and after the attack, showing his head bandaged. He later tweeted that he had also decided to leave Lesbos “for security reasons.”
Greek islands have seen a surge in arrivals after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened the borders after the deaths of 33 Turkish soldiers in an area of northern Syria they’d invaded, making the Turkish leader expect his country would be overwhelmed with more refugees and migrants, adding to some 5.5 million there now.
While thousands stormed the land border at the treacherous Evros River, where many in the past have drowned trying to cross, some 500 had come to Greek islands from Turkey which had already let human traffickers operate during a largely suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union, which closed its borders to them.
Tensions are soaring on the islands where residents and officials want the New Democracy government to suspend plans to build new detention centers to vet those ineligible for asylum, with about 42,000 penned up two years or more.
That has spilled over into violence with protesters battling riot police in confrontations so intense, fueled by the government’s intention to seize properties to build centers, that the police had to be taken off the island after eight were attacked in a hotel.