The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) condemns the beating of the Syrian journalist Amir AL-HALABI by the French police
Paris – 30 November 2020
On the evening of the 28th of November, photojournalist Amir al-Halabi was severely beaten by the French police while covering protests that occurred in Place de la Bastille in Paris against the “Comprehensive Security Law” and government measures that would impose restrictions on freedom of expression and journalistic work. This includes Article 24 of the proposed law that prohibits the filming of police officers while they are working. Last week, the French press had circulated photos of a policeman severely beating Michel Zekler, a music producer of African origin. This was followed by the attack on the photojournalist Amir al-Halabi and the showcasing of another shocking picture of French police behavior against not only the protests but also the press crew/personnel covering them. Indeed, al-Halabi was hit on the head with a truncheon when he filmed French police displaying violent behavior against the protesters. This led to deep wounds that required local surgery, which only happened after he was stuck bleeding for 3 hours at the location of the incident because the French police closed off the area.
Al-Halabi, who was a media activist and photojournalist in Syria, contributed to covering the protests in the city of Aleppo and later the violence that escalated against journalists and civilians in general. This forced him to seek asylum in France three years ago, where he is now working as a photojournalist in collaboration with Polka magazine and Agence France-Presse.
Amir al-Halabi states: “I stayed covered in blood – me and my camera – for three hours, and I was beaten just because I was photographing. This took me 8 years back to the same scene in Syria when I was covering the demonstrations there. It no longer matters how much fear or pain there is or how many stitches there are in my head. Rather, it is the psychological trauma of seeing the same scene repeated again.”
The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) affirms the necessity of opening an investigation concerning the incident, referring the suspects to the judiciary, and taking all measures that would guarantee freedom of protest, freedom of the press, and the protection of press personnel. SCM also asserts its grave concern about Article 24 of the proposed law as well as its formulation, which opens the door wide to violating freedom of expression and of the press and to granting police officers a form of immunity against the violations that they might commit.