ER Editor: See also this story from RT yesterday, RT France journalists to face court after arrest near Belarusian border – Polish police. Of note:
A spokesman for the police department in the Podlaskie region of eastern Poland told RIA Novosti on Monday that RT correspondent David Khalifa and cameraman Jordi Demory will be taken before a judge in the nearby city of Sokolka.
“They have recently been sent to a court that will decide their case,” the official said. Legal officers confirm that they have received a case being brought against the pair, but have not released details on when it might be heard. The two Frenchmen are understood to have been accused of illegally entering the border area after Polish authorities banned the press from covering the situation on the ground, instituting an effective media blackout, which has been widely criticized.
Earlier on Monday, Khalifa and Demory reported that they had been handcuffed by officers after “unfriendly” encounters with police close to the demarcation line. “On several occasions they asked us to leave and not to film,” Khalifa said of the Polish troops. “We are journalists and we wanted to show what was going on. And Poland persists in not allowing us to do our job,” he said. “We’ve seen a sort of repressive action by the police, who are not just very tense, but also act quite aggressively.”
Warsaw has mobilized thousands of officers, border guards and soldiers in recent days and declared a state of emergency amid a sharp spike in the number of people trying to cross into the EU from Belarus.
Poland’s censorship at Belarus border ‘beyond comprehension’ – journalists
European journalism groups have blasted Poland for preventing reporters from covering the situation on the Belarusian border.
The issue came to the forefront on Monday, as an RT crew was arrested after entering the area.
Warsaw’s refusal to provide access to a place that requires the attention of the press is “clearly violating European standards for media freedom,” said Ricardo Gutierrez, general secretary of the European Federation of Journalists. The arrest of RT France journalists “was an act of censorship by the Polish government,” he told the French branch of RT, adding that several Polish journalists had previously been subjected to the same treatment.
Poland banned the press from entering the border zone in early September. It deployed military police to the restricted area to prevent would-be asylum seekers from crossing into its territory from the Belarusian side.
Warsaw alleged the influx of migrants was masterminded by Minsk in retaliation for sanctions imposed on it by the EU. Belarus claimed the sanctions simply left it with fewer resources, and it had to prioritize more immediate threats like drug smuggling in border policing.
RT France reporter David Khalifa and cameraman Jordi Demory, both French nationals, were arrested on Monday after approaching the border from the Polish side near the town of Usnarz Gorny.
“Journalists are simply trying to do their job, which is to inform the public about what is happening in the border area,” Gutierrez said. He described Poland’s obfuscation as something “beyond comprehension.”
“When a nation like Poland declares an emergency, justifying it with security considerations, it leaves us in a sense unarmed. Our only weapon is our journalistic cause, which is reporting stories,” he added.
Similar concerns were expressed by France 2 journalist Dominique Pradalie, who is also a senior official at the Syndicat National des Journalistes, a major French union for media professionals. She said the freedom of the press should be respected everywhere, with very few exceptions where people’s lives may be at risk.
“Going where events are happening to understand them and report them to the public is our journalistic mission,” she told RT France.
There is no justification for arresting journalists, who simply do their job.
She said Poland’s ban on media in the border zone was part of a larger trend of increasing curbs on media freedoms in the world, including in France. Too often reporters are “shown the door, as if they were criminals or enemies,” she lamented.
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