Friday, 22 August 2014

Turkish journalist threatened and assaulted by American police

AA reporter Bilgin Şaşmaz threatened, assaulted & detained by police in Ferguson, Missouri

A reporter for a Turkish news agency says he was threatened, beaten and detained in America on Tuesday night. Covering the Ferguson riots for Anadolu Ajans, Bilgin Şaşmaz was told by a policeman, “If you direct your flash toward me once again, I will kill you.’”

As Şaşmaz moved into the middle of the demonstrators to capture their actions, including one throwing a bottle at a policeman, he found himself being man-handled by a police officer. He shouted “Press, Press” but the policeman took no notice as he dragged the photo-journalist away.

Şaşmaz was thrown to the ground, grazing his knees, as his hands were handcuffed. During the struggle, which was filmed by other reporters, his camera was also damaged. The Turkish journalist said he was held in a small car for 1.5 hours, then a detention centre for five hours before being released.

Bilgin Şaşmaz
Following his release, Şaşmaz said: “It was clear from the professional camera in my hands and my clothing that I was a journalist. Just to make it clear to them I was a reporter, I screamed as hard as I could, ‘Press, Press!’ But instead the police surrounded me. They forced me to kneel. I tried to resist. They forced my hands behind my back. They handled me roughly causing my knees to hit the ground, making them bleed.”

Ferguson – a small town in Missouri, in the middle of the US – has been the scene of furious protests following the death of a young black American male. 18-year-old Michael Brown was unarmed when he was shot dead by a policeman on 9 August. 
Michael Brown

The Freedom of the Press Foundation has reported that at least 13 journalists have been arrested in Ferguson since the protests began. They include journalists from national American newspapers including the Washington Post, whiles those from Al Jazeera and Huffington Post claim police have sprayed them with tear gas as they tried to report. It is thought Şaşmaz was about to capture police firing plastic bullets into the crowd when he was first threatened.

Observers from human rights group Amnesty International have also criticised American law-enforcement officers, claiming they have used excessive force against demonstrators protesting against the shooting of Michael Brown.