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Reporter assaulted by police officers

(PINA/IFEX) - The following is a PINA statement:

PINA CONDEMNS POLICE BRUTALITY

Suva - The Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) has condemned the 28 November 2003 attack of a "National" newspaper reporter by policemen outside the Gordon Market in Port Moresby.

Speaking from Samoa, PINA President Apulu Lance Polu said the physical attack and verbal abuse against the reporter was uncalled for and called the police assault on the reporter "uncivilized".

Apulu appealed to the Papua New Guinea police commissioner in calling for a full investigation and for constitutional protection of media colleagues and journalists in Papua New Guinea. This is the latest in a series of attacks against journalists in the country.

He said that the situation is not helped by the fact that the physical attacks are being committed by law enforcers.

"National" reporter Ekar Keapu was covering a confrontation between police and a group of vendors. At approximately 10:30 a.m. on 28 November, the confrontation escalated with both sides throwing projectiles and with many other vendors and people scurrying in all directions for cover.

Keapu moved in to take a photograph of one individual who had a bayonet, when he was confronted by a policeman who told him to "f..k" off and ordered him not to take any photographs.

The policeman tried unsuccessfully to snatch the reporter's camera. Another police officer approached from behind and punched the photographer on the side of the face. As Keapu reeled sideways, the first policeman grabbed the camera from his hand and smashed it on the bitumen. The camera has been damaged beyond repair.

As the photographer tried to collect the broken pieces, another policeman lifted a long piece of steel rod and threatened to hit him over the head. "We don't want media . . . come on, 'f..k' off now," he yelled at Keapu in a threatening manner.

Apulu praised the courage and professionalism of journalists in Papua New Guinea, given their stand against recent threats by the government and Prime Minister Michael Somare. The prime minister has recanted the accusations against the media that he had made in Parliament earlier.

"National" editor Yehiura Hriehwazi is expected to launch a lawsuit against the policemen involved in the attack on Keapu. He is also demanding that the police department pay for the damaged camera.

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