The Greek police posted on its website photos taken by Agence France-Presse photographers and downloaded from the AFP photo archive service Imageforum, in a search for witnesses of the violent protests that took place in Syntagma Square in Athens on February 12, during which dozens of buildings were burned and shops looted.
“Such a practice is not only illegal in respect to intellectual property law but is also unacceptable in a constitutional state. By this letter, I officially protest against such methods. We do note that, following the intervention of our Bureau Chief in Athens, the pictures which were identified as having been taken by AFP were removed from the police website,” Hoog said in his letter, which was published by AFP.
“Aside from this violation of the law and accepted practice, I would like to draw your attention to the responsibility of the police service which with this action could place our staff in danger”, Hoog added.
In a related statement, the Paris-based non-profit group Reporters Without Borders, which advocates press freedom, said:
“We are outraged by what the police did, which was not only illegal but also directly threatened the safety of news agency and freelance photographers,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The police have ample resources for their enquiries, including the security cameras for which maintaining law and order is always cited as grounds for their installation and use. The purpose of new agency photos is informing the public, not use by law enforcement agencies.
“We have for months been repeating that news photographers are not police auxiliaries. The copyright and editorial control of their work must be fully respected. Their safety is now clearly threatened by such behavior, which helps to fuel a sterile and baseless controversy about supposed media collaboration with the police.
“It is already very difficult to contain the anger and vengefulness of some of the demonstrators, who are becoming more violent towards the media. The outrageous attitude of the authorities in this case is not going to make things easier and could have disastrous consequences,» the group added.