Police outside the building at Liebig Street 34 after police cleared it, one of Berlin's few remaining squats, in the east Berlin neighborhood of Friedrichshain on October 9, 2020. Police attacked journalists at the site and prevented them from covering the eviction. (AFP/Tobias Schwarz)

Berlin police shove journalists with batons, prevent them from covering eviction

Police in Berlin physically attacked journalists to prevent them from covering a controversial eviction on October 8, 9, and 10, 2020, in which police removed activists who had been squatting at a house in the city, according to journalists Björn Kietzmann and Christina Gutsmiedl, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app and email respectively,  journalists’ social media posts, and a report in the Berlin daily newspaper taz

On Twitter, Kietzmann, a freelance photographer, wrote that he was covering the eviction on October 8 when a local police officer threatened to confiscate his camera if he continued to take photos. On October 9, Gutsmiedl, a reporter for taztweeted that police pushed her away from the scene, even though she showed her press card. That same day, the independent journalism collective Nica Collective tweeted that police “aggressively stopped” its reporter whose name it did not disclose in the tweet while he was filming police dragging a protester. The next day, October 10, Gutsmiedl published a report in taz detailing further assaults, alleging that police pushed journalists and photographers and prevented them from reporting. 

Jörg Reichel, a representative for Verdi trade union which represents workers in media among other industries, told CPJ via email that the union is aware of 22 journalists who were physically attacked by police officers, some with batons. Reichel, who was at the scene,  said in an interview with taz that police obstructed journalists not only from the site of the eviction, but from accessing the surrounding areas, noting that many reporters were clearly identified as members of the media. Reichel also documented police pushing one journalist and breaking the glasses of another reporter on his Twitter account. 

Between October 8 and 10, police in Berlin cleared about 50 residents out of a building known as Liebig34, one of the city’s last remaining squats, which had housed an “anarchist-queer-feminist” community since 1999, BBC reported.

In response to CPJ’s request for comment via email, Winfrid Wenzel, head of the communications department of the Berlin police said that nobody had filed reports with the police about attacks against journalists. “No such facts were brought to us. Should such allegations arise, such as those described, these must be reported so that they can be investigated.”

Wenzel added that at the eviction site police “set up a media contact point, a specially protected area to enable press work and where the press office of the Berlin Police could be found. In addition, the press office could be reached at any time via two mobile phones and via the newsroom.” 

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with a comment from the Berlin police department.