Photographer Claims A Cop Broke His Camera
Published: November 9, 2011 (Issue # 1682)
The Union of Journalists has demanded a full investigation into an “unprovoked” attack by a policeman on a press photographer during a protest rally last week that resulted into costly equipment damages.
On Thursday, the union published a statement saying that award-winning photographer Pyotr Kovalyov of Interpress photography agency had been subjected to an unprovoked attack on Nevsky Prospekt by an OMON special-task police officer.
“The policeman was deliberate in his attempts to disable the photography equipment,” the statement said.
In the statement, the Union of Journalists appealed to police chiefs, saying that such actions on the part of the police are a violation of the laws of the Russian Federation.
It demanded a full investigation into the incident and that formal apologies be made to Kovalyov and Interpress agency, as well as reimbursement of the material damages.
Speaking Monday, Kovalyov said he was attacked by a helmet-wearing OMON policeman during an unauthorized Strategy 31 rally in defense of the right to assembly on Oct. 31, soon after the rally had started.
He said the officer deliberately went for his camera, breaking off his Canon Speedlite flash and damaging the Canon lens, causing estimated damages of 100,000 rubles (about $3,260).
“He was not after me, but rather after my camera; I managed to keep it out of his reach the first time, but he succeeded in getting to it on the second attempt,” Kovalyov said, adding that the policeman did not say a word to him during the scuffle.
“It was fast and silent. After he broke the flash off, I was pushed hard and fell down on one knee, hitting my Chestvest with the lens in it [against the ground]. So not only the flash, but also the Canon EF 70-200 millimeter lens was damaged.”
The police said Monday that the incident would be investigated after they receive a report from the victim or the Union of Journalists. According to the union, a formal report will be filed with the police later this week.
Kovalyov said he would file a formal complaint when the Union of Journalists provides legal aid to him, as promised. “I know that the police have very strong legal support,” he said.
“Journalists are now in a situation when raising any claims is virtually useless. Legal experts advised me not to attempt any action without legal assistance.”
He said neither he nor his agency could afford the services of a lawyer.
Kovalyov is a well-known local photographer who was awarded two journalism prizes by City Hall earlier this year.
The incident is the most recent one involving a journalist during Strategy 31 rallies, which have been held in St. Petersburg on the last day of months that have 31 days since January 2010.
On Dec. 31 last year, photographer Vadim Zhernov of the state news agency RIA Novosti was reportedly attacked by a police officer on the same site near Gostiny Dvor on Nevsky Prospekt.
“He had his flash broken off in a similar manner, but it was also stolen, as the OMON officer who broke it off took it away,” Kovalyov said.
“Only after we [press photographers] approached the police spokesman Vyacheslav Stepchenko and complained about it to him, somebody from the OMON group came over and returned it.”
Earlier, several other press photographers complained of being arrested, harassed or having their photographs deleted by police officers during Strategy 31 rallies.
No police officer has been held accountable for violating the rights of journalists.