Four French media workers have been charged with trespass while covering protests against a new Adani coal mine.
Journalist Hugo Clément, producer Guillaume Durand and cameramen Clément Brelet and Victor Peressentchensky were filming near the Abbot Point port near Bowen, Queensland. They are in Australia filming a documentary series about the world's oceans.
At 7.00am on Monday 22 July the four were arrested by Queensland police, along with three protesters.
Police did not warn them that they would be arrested nor issue a move on order. The four identitied themselves to police as journalists.
— Hugo Clément (@hugoclement) July 22, 2019
"We were just filming the action of those people and we don't know why but police decided to arrest us," Clément told the ABC.
"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."
As part of their bail conditions they are unable to be within 100 metres of any site owned by the Adani Group, and must stay at least 20km away from the Carmichael coal mine.
“For me Australia was a very big democratic country with big press freedom so to do my job here in Australia I didn’t think it would be a problem,” Clément told the Guardian Australia.
“I’m very surprised and maybe disappointed too because I didn’t think it was like that here, but in fact it is.”
Federal member of parliament George Christensen, whose electorate includes Bowen, called for the men to be deported.
In a statement, Daniel Bastard from Reporters Sans Frontières called on Queensland authorities to drop the charges and expressed concern about press freedom in Australia.
Recent repeated press freedom violations in Australia raise questions about respect for the rule of law. If nothing changes, Australia has every chance of falling several places in RSF’s next Press Freedom Index”, he said.
Australia was ranked 21 on the index in 2019, down two places from the previous year.
Update, 25 July 2019.
Police announced that they would drop charges against the four journalists after "careful consideration of the circumstances including QPS policies and procedures".
Maddison M. & Wainwright S. 2019. Adani protesters block entry to Abbot Point, French journalist and crew charged. ABC News. 22 July 2019.
Smee B. 2019. Adani protest: French journalists arrested while filming anti-coal activities. Guardian Australia. 22 July 2019.
McGowan M. 2019. Adani protest: French journalists' charges should be dropped, media union says. Guardian Australia. 23 July 2019.