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Tuesday 21 May 2013

Arbitrary detention of a professional photojournalist in Thessaloniki

Posted by @IrateGreek

A photojournalist denounces the police for detaining him while he was doing his job

Dear colleagues,

With this letter I wish to report an incident that happened to me on May 17th, around 2:20pm on Tsimiski street, near Aristotelous square (Thessaloniki).

As an Associated Press photojournalist in Thessaloniki, I was informed by a colleague that a homeless man was sleeping on a bench in Tsimiski street with a guitar  by his side (just outside the "Folli Follie" shop). Luckily I was at a nearby cafe so I got there in a few minutes.

Within less than 5 minutes, police officer Themistokles Papouknas arrived and started asking what I was photographing and why. He pointed out that I was taking too many pictures, that  1 or 2 pictures would be enough and asked if I had permission from the homeless man to take photos of him. I gave him my national ID card as well as my professional IDs (from the General Secretariat of Mass Media, the Foreign Press Association and the Union of Photojournalists in Greece).

Then he asked me to follow him to a police vehicle that had arrived together with another policeman and, after he verified my identity, he was told by the police operations headquarters that I am of no concern to his department.

Later on, he told me that they had received an anonymous complaint that I was taking photos of clients of the Eurobank ATM across the street.

I found myself surrounded by Z-force policemen within minutes.

When I asked “what is going on?” they responded that a police car was on its way in order to transfer me to National Security. When I pointed out that an anonymous complaint goes against the rules and that it was illegal to detain me, officer Papouknas replied that "I will detain you, report me!" The police car came and I was transferred to the Lefkos Pyrgos police station where I was locked in a cell, after I underwent the well-known procedure of  humiliation as a human and as a professional. I was released  after a little while.

Because I feel insulted, outraged by my illegal detention, after 31 years of working as a photojournalist, with professional results that are recognized beyond the borders of Greece, I decided to take legal action in order to protect my personality, as well as my professional entity.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Nikos Giakoumidis


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