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Demonstrators hold Greek flags in a cloud of tear gas during clashes at a rally in Athens on January 20, 2019. Several journalists were assaulted while covering the demonstration. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

Journalists assaulted by far-right demonstrators in Greece

January 24, 2019 2:13 PM ET

Berlin, January 24, 2019--Greek authorities should quickly and thoroughly investigate the assault and harassment of reporters and photojournalists at a protest in Athens on January 20 and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Supporters of the far-right party Golden Dawn assaulted German reporter Thomas Jacobi, a correspondent for the French daily newspaper La Croix, in a central square in Athens, punching him in the face and destroying his camera, his employer reported, adding that they also demanded he erase videos of the demonstration from his phone.

In another part of the square, far-right extremists kicked and punched Greek Sputnik News stringer Kostas Dadamis and stole his camera, according to news website Iefimerida. Sputnik reported that Dadamis was hospitalized with a head injury. A crew employed by the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, Greece's state-owned radio and television broadcaster, was also attacked by extremists, according to the daily newspaper Kathimerini. The cameraman, Costas Papadatos, told his employer that a group of extremists first verbally harassed him and reporter Elina Koliva, then they hit Papadatos on his back and in his face while the police stood by.

"We call on the Greek authorities to thoroughly investigate the attacks on La Croix correspondent Thomas Jacobi, Sputnik stringer Kostas Damadis, and others during last Sunday's demonstration and hold those responsible to account," said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said in New York. "Authorities should speak out forcefully against attempts to intimidate the media, and ensure that journalists can freely and safely cover events of public interest."

Tens of thousands gathered in Athens on January 20 to protest the Greek government's approval of neighboring Macedonia's name changing to North Macedonia, according to Al-Jazeera. The largely peaceful demonstration eventually turned violent, however, prompting the office of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to condemn extremists who attacked demonstrators and police officers, The New York Times reported.

Jacobi was hospitalized after the assault and was released on January 21, according to his employer. La Croix also reported that Jacobi recorded audio of his attackers asking whether he was the journalist behind a documentary film critical of the Golden Dawn party. Jacobi co-produced the documentary "Golden Dawn: A Personal Affair" with Angélique Kourounis in 2016.

The Hellenic Police Press Office did not respond to emailed questions from CPJ.

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