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Photographer beaten by police despite complying with order to delete photographs

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an 18 May 2007 media release of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), an IFJ regional group:

European Journalists Urge Bulgaria to Charge Police Who Assaulted Photographer

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the regional group of the International Federation of Journalists, today condemned the brutal attack by police officers on Emil Ivanov, a well-known Bulgarian photojournalist who was assaulted as he was covering a criminal hearing at the National Palace of Justice in Sofia.

Emil Ivanov, 55, and a member of IFJ/EFJ affiliate Podkrepa, was attacked and beaten on May 16 by several police agents after he had taken pictures after the court hearing of a witness's private bodyguards and of policemen who were wearing bulletproof vests and carrying automatic weapons, which is unusual for officers at the palace.

The officers ordered him to delete the pictures. At first he refused but seconds later he agreed to comply. While he was trying to delete the pictures 5 officers dragged him to a nearby tunnel in the building and assaulted him with their batons.

"This attack on a working photographer on duty is shocking," said Arne König, EFJ chair. "There is never any justification for using violence to censor the press but in this case the circumstances are even more disturbing as Emil was in the midst of meeting police demands when they decided to assault him."

The minister of the interior had so far explained that the extreme security measures were not for the protection of the witness, as the media speculated, but for the protection of the judges.

Mr. Ivanov is willing to go to trial against the officers who assaulted him. Their identities had not been revealed so far. The minister of the interior promised rapid investigation. Authorities have not announced any charges in the case, even though the assailants have been captured on tape by the fellow journalists.

"European journalists are watching this situation closely and are urging the Bulgarian authorities to find the police officers responsible for this brutal attack and to bring charges against them," König said. "This will send a clear message that journalists cannot be censored by anyone through use of force or threats of violence."

The EFJ represents over 260,000 journalists in more than 30 countries.

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