Gun-in-camera trick endangers journalists

New York, June 12, 2000 — The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned that the tactics Luxembourg police used last week to shoot an armed man who was holding 25 children hostage in a daycare center could increase the risks journalists face in dangerous situations.

On Thursday, June 1, Luxembourg police officers led the gunman to believe that he would be allowed to give an interview to a television crew. Police then commandeered a camera from a local TV station, hid a gun inside it, and dispatched the camera with a police marksman, who posed as a cameraman. When the hostage-taker emerged from the daycare center with a child in one arm and a grenade in the other, the marksman shot him using the hidden gun.

“While CPJ applauds the safe release of the children who were held hostage, we find the use of police officers disguised as journalists very troublesome,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. Noting that journalists are already in the line of fire when covering police actions, conflicts, and other dangerous assignments, Cooper said, “If they are suspected of being parties to those conflicts, they are put at far greater risk. If they are suspected of being police agents in hostage situations, they could come under direct attack.”

Police reportedly requisitioned TV equipment — including a camera and a television truck — from Radio Television Luxembourg (RTL), and then installed a gun inside the camera without RTL’s knowledge

CPJ urges law enforcement organizations to consider the dangers they may create for legitimate journalists by posing as journalists, even with the goal of saving lives. “Law enforcement agencies must consider the consequences of such actions,” said Cooper.