Coverage of Climate Protests Brings Media Arrests

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Environmental activists acted swiftly. Within 30 seconds he had inscribed a message on the gallery wall and affixed himself to the heavy gilt frame enclosing the two masterpieces.

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As their protest unfolded at the Prado Museum in Madrid on 5 November, Spanish journalist Joana Jiménez i García was there, filming on her cellphone.

But when museum security intervened, she found herself a target. In footage posted to Twitter, Jimenez is heard saying, “I’m a reporter, I’m a reporter,” as a guard attempts to cover her phone and stop her recording.


The guard replies: “This is not news.”

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Giménez said a friend in contact with the Futuro Vegetable group had told him there would be a protest. But she didn’t know what would happen.

In the gallery, protesters affixed themselves to the frames of Goya’s “Naked Maja” and “Clothed Maja” paintings and scrawled “1.5°C” on the wall – the extent of global warming that scientists say is the worst possible damage. necessary to prevent climate change.

from witnesses to targets

Initially, police contacted Gimenez, who works as a freelancer for the news website El Salto, and a photojournalist named in the report only as Isabel, to ask for witness statements.

But the journalists soon found themselves under scrutiny along with the protesters for allegedly violating public order and damaging national heritage. He was detained for 30 hours at a police station in Madrid.

Individuals convicted of those charges can be fined or imprisoned for up to three years.

The incident was the latest in a series of cases in which journalists covering climate change protests staged in art museums or on highways have found themselves detained.

The detention was condemned by media organizations including the watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and prompted a British police force to call for an independent investigation.

“Journalists should not be prevented from doing their work here in Spain or in any country,” Alfonso Boluz, president of RSF in Spain, told Granthshala.

In Britain, Michelle Stanstreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, released a statement after police arrested three journalists at a Just Stop Oil protest.

“Filmmakers and photographers play a vital role in delivering accurate information and quality journalism to members of the public,” he said in a statement.

In the past too, the police have mistaken journalists as protestors. Security forces in several countries have spoken of the difficulty of distinguishing between a journalist and a protester in the heat of the moment. At the environmental protest, however, those detained said they all clearly identified themselves as being with the media.


In Britain, journalists covering protests by Just Stop Oil, a climate change group, have dumped Vincent van Gogh’s famous “Sunflower” painting in tomato soup and destroyed it on the M25, London’s main motorway. has been brought to a standstill.

British filmmaker Rich Felgate, who is making a documentary on the movement, has been arrested twice.

The first time, on 15 October, he was detained at a street demonstration in London on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance.

Then on 7 November, he was arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage while filming protesters blocking the M25. He was released both times without charge and did not face further action.

“The first time I was arrested, I was detained for about four hours, the second time for about 13 hours. The police were trying to find out whether I was a journalist,” he told Granthshala.

“First of all, I was angry that they were doing this. I think they had it in for me. They are trying to scare the media into reporting these protests. But that won’t stop me from going back . It is more important to report what is going on. Freedom of the press is something that has been hard fought for,” he said.

Felgate said police asked him to help them learn more about the Just Stop Oil movement by becoming an informant.

“I was not going to do that. They do not understand that it is important for journalists to protect their contacts,” he said.

The police force, whose officers also detained photographer Tom Bowles and Charlotte Lynch from London-based radio station LBC on 7 November, said in a protest the following day that an independent police force had been asked to investigate and “identify any lessons learned” for the police in managing such incidents.

Hertfordshire Police did not respond to Granthshala’s request for comment about Felgate’s claims. But in a separate statement, the county’s chief constable, Charlie Hall, said last Thursday that he “fully appreciates the legitimate concerns raised by the journalists’ arrest” and that he had telephoned them to apologise.

Hall said that “the review rightly concluded that the arrests of the journalists were not justified, and that changes to training and commanding needed to be made, finding no evidence to indicate that the officers acted with malice or intentionally inconsistently”. Were.”

He said the review had found areas of “valuable learning” for handling future protests, which the force would share nationally.

under investigation

In Spain, Jiménez declined a request to be interviewed by Granthshala “for personal and family reasons”, but said that her interview, which appeared in, Can be used.

“Being in prison is somewhat unpleasant and disturbing but morally I was calm because I was just doing my job,” she said in that interview.

“At around 7 in the evening the police called me to say that I have to testify as a witness about what happened. I said no problem.”

She said: “Hardly an hour had passed when the police called me again but in a much more insistent tone and asked me to leave [to a police station] as soon as possible.”

She was asked to testify at the station, but while she was there, the police told her that she would be detained.

In her statement, Jimenez said a lawyer tried to explain that an arrest was not necessary but “the police officer did not let her speak, stopped her several times and arrested her.” [us],

Javier Moreno Gomez, the lawyer for Jimenez and his colleague, told Granthshala, “I cannot comment on whether this case will go to trial or whether the police usually arrest journalists, as the investigation is still ongoing. “

He added that the arrests of the journalists were “abnormal because journalists’ right to freedom of information was not guaranteed.”

“We face a case of suppression to restrict the Right to Information,” he said.

The Spanish National Police declined to comment.

Coverage of Climate Protests Brings Media Arrests

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