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Appeal for Queensland to drop charges against French news crew

Appeal for Queensland to drop charges against French news crew

The media union will ask the Queensland government to intervene on behalf of a French news crew arrested covering an anti-mining demonstration and recommend their charges be dropped.

Reporter Hugo Clement and three crew were taken into custody and charged with trespassing at an anti-Adani protest near the Abbot Point terminal at Bowen on Monday.

Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance president Marcus Strom said the charges were outrageous and he would write to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath to seek answers.

“Journalists have the right to carry out their jobs without being arrested. You would think it’s a clear fundamental of an open and democratic society,” Mr Strom told AAP on Tuesday.

He said the MEAA would ask the government to recommend the charges be dropped.

“On the back of the AFP raids this sends a really bad signal to the rest of the world about how seriously we take press freedom, which doesn’t seem to be very serious at the moment, unfortunately,” he said.

Civil libertarians are also outraged by the actions of the arresting officers, saying it’s an unacceptable interference of press freedom and a concerning reminder of Fitzgerald-era police intimidation.

President of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties Terry O’Gorman called on Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll to explain why the group were arrested while covering a demonstration.

Queensland Police on Tuesday declined to take a firm position on the matter.

“As the trespass matters will be heard in court, it would be inappropriate to provide detailed comment at this time,” a police statement said.

Mr Clement told AAP police arrested the crew without explanation.

Online video shows the group identifying themselves as journalists working for public broadcaster France 2.

Regardless, Mr O’Gorman said the arrests were concerning and called on the state’s top cop to give a public explanation.

“The media have the right to cover a protest without the fear of getting arrested,” Mr O’Gorman told AAP on Tuesday.

He said it was a worrying example following Australian Federal Police raids on a News Corp journalist and the ABC last month.

“It’s a right of the community, whether here or overseas, to get news, particularly where these demonstrations are happening in a remote part of Queensland,” Mr O’Gorman said.

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