Riot police officers are seen at a protest in Athens, Greece, on November 17, 2020. Police at the protest arrested and detained journalist Antonis Rigopoulos. (AFP/Louisa Gouliamaki)

Greek police detain, question journalist Antonis Rigopoulos for allegedly wearing incorrect mask at protest

On November 17, 2020, traffic police in Athens stopped Greek journalist Antonis Rigopoulos while he was covering a protest, and proceeded to detain him and question him about his work, according to a report by his employer, the news website Documento, and Rigopoulos, who communicated with CPJ via email.

Rigopoulos was using his cellphone to live-stream a rally organized by the Greek Communist Party on the anniversary of a 1973 student uprising, and police stopped him for allegedly not wearing a mask that complied with the country’s COVID-19 regulations, although he was wearing a full-face gas mask to protect against tear gas, according to that report and Rigopoulos.

Police forced Rigopoulos to turn off his phone, refused to examine his press card, cursed at him, and took him into custody at a local traffic police headquarters, according to Rigopoulos, who also wrote about his experience for the local English-language news website Koutipandoras.

At the police station, officers questioned Rigopoulos aggressively about the mask he was wearing and what he was doing at the demonstration, pushed him against a chair, and cursed at him, he told CPJ and wrote in that article. After about half an hour, the officers released Rigopoulos without charge, but fined him 300 euros (US$355) for the alleged mask violation, he said.

Rigopoulos told CPJ that police informed him on November 19 that they had canceled the fine because of a procedural error in the forms officers had filled out. Rigopoulos said he filed a complaint against the police for their actions.

CPJ emailed questions to the press department of the Greek National Police but did not receive any reply.