Pacific Media Watch

25 July 2019

AUSTRALIA: Police drop trespass charges against French TV crew at Adani protest

French television journalist Hugo Clément speaking out about the arrest in Queensland on Monday. Video: Euronews

BRISBANE (ABC News/Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch): The Queensland Police Service (QPS) has dropped trespass charges against a prominent French journalist and his film crew who were arrested while filming anti-Adani protesters earlier this week, reports ABC News.

France 2 reporter Hugo Clément – a high-profile environmental and climate change journalist –  his crew and several protesters were arrested on the railway line at the entrance to Adani’s Abbot Point coal-loading facility on Monday.

In a statement, QPS said it had “reviewed the circumstances surrounding the arrests of five people at a port facility near Bowen on Monday”.

READ MORE: RSF demands Australian police drop charges against French TV crew

“The decision to withdraw charges follows careful consideration of the circumstances, including QPS policies and procedures,” the statement said.

“As a result, the QPS will withdraw all charges against a 28-year-old Victorian man and four male French nationals — aged 29, 30, 32 and 39 — when the matters are brought before Bowen Magistrates Court again on July 30.”

Charges will still proceed against two Victorian women, aged 20 and 22, who took part in the protest.

Shortly after being released from Bowen police station on Monday, Clément expressed his surprise at being arrested.

‘Difficult to understand’
“It’s just difficult to understand why police decided to do that because we are not a danger, we did not block the railway, we are just filming, reporting what is going on here,” he said.

QPS said representatives of all five people had been notified of the decision and that it would make no further comment on the matter as it remained before the courts.

Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) CEO Paul Murphy said it was “wonderful news”.

Murphy said the union had written to the Premier, Attorney-General and Police Commissioner asking for the charges to be dropped.

“It was such a bad look for Australia and it is great news that common sense has prevailed,” Murphy said.

“It seems extraordinary they were not given the opportunity to be informed that they were on private land and given the opportunity to move on.

“They were simply arrested and then had these extraordinary bail conditions imposed on them, it was completely wrong.”

He said he could not recall a previous occasion when journalists had been charged while covering a protest.

“But coming from the back of the recent AFP raids on the ABC and a News Corporation journalist, it certainly is a worrying time in Australia for press freedom,” he said.