The number of journalists who have reported assaults or aggression by the police during the last week in Catalonia is mounting. According to the media watchdog group media.cat, 58 media professionals have registered complaints about different types of attacks they have suffered during the five days since the Spanish Supreme Court verdicts on 12 Catalan pro-independence leaders were announced.
On Friday night, several media organizations and professional associations added their voices to the concerns. The Catalonia journalists' association, Col·legi de Periodistes de Catalunya, made calls on social media to demand that "security forces and responsible politicians respond firmly in order to end this spiral against journalists" and declared its solidarity with all those who have been assaulted and arrested.
El Col·legi de Periodistes @periodistes_cat exigeix a les forces de seguretat i als responsables polítics una reacció ferma per acabar amb aquesta espiral contra els periodistes. #ProuAgressionsPeriodistes solidaritat amb periodistes detinguts i agredits https://t.co/9nD3CwBr74— Col·legi de Periodistes de Catalunya (@periodistes_cat) October 18, 2019
These statements have been echoed by the Ramon Barnils Journalists' Group, an association working for rigorous and professional journalism in the Catalan-speaking lands, who also announced that they will report the attacks to international human rights bodies. Furthermore, they called for the immediate resignation of the Spanish interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaksa, and his counterpart in the Catalan government, Miquel Buch. "It is an unprecedented attack on the freedom of information," said the group in a tweet.
Denunciem les actuacions intolerables de la Policia Nacional i els Mossos d'Esquadra agredint i detenint periodistes. Atac sense precedents al dret a la informació. Exigim la dimissió de Buch i Marlaska. N'informarem a instàncies internacionals de protecció dels drets humans.— Grup de Periodistes Ramon Barnils (@GrupBarnils) October 18, 2019
However, within the Catalan government itself there is also concern about the violence used by the police forces against media professionals covering the street clashes. The Catalan administration's Office of Civil and Political Rights has warned through social media that "the high number of journalists injured by actions", mostly by the Spanish police forces, is a "very worrying indicator of the quality of the interventions in public order".
The Office of Civil and Political Rights spoke out on Friday night about Spanish police firing rubber bullets indiscriminately and making baton charges against several groups of properly accredited and identified journalists that were covering the street unrest.
L’elevat nombre de periodistes ferits per l’acció de la @policia és un indicador molt preocupant de la qualitat de les intervencions d’ordre públic d’aquesta setmana. #ProuAgressionsPeriodistes https://t.co/CQrHenCsKS— Drets Civils i Polítics (@hitensdret) October 18, 2019
A number of journalists have reported specific cases of aggression which they or other media professionals suffered due to actions by the police forces on Catalan streets on Friday night, most of them in Barcelona.
The case that has caused most outrage is the arrest of photojournalist, Albert Garcia, working for El País, in Plaça Urquinaona in Barcelona when he was working and taking photographs of a violent arrest. Identified by a press armband, he was accused of hitting an officer, which he denies. Spanish National police officers very roughly arrested him and he was taken away.
Hours after the arrest, in the early hours of the morning, Garcia was released, having been in custody for 5 hours.
Photojournalist Emili Puig denounced via social media that a rubber ball projectile hit his face, on the left side of the jaw, knocking out a tooth. In addition, he also reported that on leaving the Hospital de Sant Pau, a Spanish National police officer verbally abused him.
🔴 Avui m’ha rebotat una pilota de goma a la cara. Una contusió a la part esquerra de la mandíbula i un queixal enfonsat. Ha sigut curiós perquè a Sant Pau hi havia dos furgos de CNP, i al sortir de l’hospital, s’han rigut de mi i m’han increpat. @centre_IRIDIA @MediacatCat pic.twitter.com/qJ18EekoKH— Emili Puig (@EmiliPuig1) October 19, 2019
ACN journalist Bernat Vilaró also reported that the Spanish National police shot a rubber ball at four journalists, also properly identified, in the Ronda de Sant Pere, in Barcelona. The rubber bullet impacted on his neck, but did not cause an injury because he was wearing a gas mask, protecting himself from the tear gas that the Spanish police also launched.
La @policia acaba de disparar bala de goma contra 4 periodistes identificats, a Ronda Sant Pere. Cop al coll. Sort de la màscara anti-gas.— Bernat Vilaró (@bernatvilaro) October 18, 2019
ElNacional.cat's professionals have also been injured in attacks, specifically photojournalist Sergi Alcázar, who was hit with a baton in carrer Fontanella when he was working, while wearing the correct identifying gear. Moreover, when he complained about being assaulted and identified himself as a member of the press, the police officer responsible said he "didn't give a damn".
These are just some of the assaults against journalists denounced in the last few hours in Catalonia in connection with the protests and street unrest in Barcelona.