BERLIN (AP) — A trade union representing German journalists called Thursday for authorities to examine the treatment of the media by police following two incidents in which officers prevented reporters from covering far-right demonstrations.
The chief executive of the DJV union, Cornelia Hass, cited the case of a protester who harangued a camera crew working for public broadcaster ZDF during a demonstration against a visit to Dresden last Thursday by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
It later emerged that the anti-Merkel protester was a civilian employee of Saxony’s state criminal police department. Video released by ZDF showed uniformed police later demanding the journalists’ identity papers during the incident, preventing them from filming the demonstration.
In a separate incident, a police officer in the southwestern city of Stuttgart reportedly told a photographer covering a protest by the far-right Identitarian Movement last week that “press freedom is canceled now.”
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Hass urged Germany’s federal and state security officials to review the way police are trained in their dealings with reporters.
“Safeguarding press freedom needs to be a major element in the training of security forces,” she said.
Justice Minister Katarina Barley told German news agency dpa late Wednesday that “what happened in Saxony is deeply worrying and needs to be urgently and comprehensively investigated.”
The eastern state has long been a hotbed of far-right groups. Journalists covering demonstrations by the anti-migrant group PEGIDA are regularly spat at, verbally abused and threatened by protesters with little police intervention.
Saxony’s top security official Roland Woeller said the police employee at the center of the Dresden incident would be questioned when he returned from leave.
“I’m not ruling anything out,” he said.