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Violence against journalists covering George Floyd protests draws scrutiny from U.S. allies

Australia is investigating a U.S. police attack on two Australian journalists outside the White House with a view to launching a formal complaint, the foreign minister said Tuesday. The reporter and her cameraman were covering a protest outside the White House — part of the groundswell of public anger over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

"We have asked the Australian embassy in Washington D.C. to investigate this incident," Marise Payne said after the journalists were shoved, punched and hit with a baton live on television. "I want to get further advice on how we would go about registering Australia's strong concerns with the responsible local authorities in Washington."

Australia's 7News reporter Amelia Brace told her network that both she and her cameraman Tim Myers were left "pretty bruised, but okay" after their encounter with police in riot gear outside the White House.

"It all happened so quickly," Brace said of the Monday incident. "We were at some distance, expecting a crackdown at curfew time... but their surge took everyone by surprise," she told 7News. "Cameraman Tim Meyers and I are both okay. Pretty bruised, but okay."

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison reached out to the network to check on the journalists and has asked his government to push for an investigation. The network said his government offered its support should the crew wish to pursue a formal complaint against the police through the Australian Embassy in Washington.

CNN reporter talks about his arrest during Minneapolis protest 02:03

There have been other incidents, including at least one captured on live television, in which news crews identifying themselves clearly to police have been placed under arrest. Other videos have shown police appearing to deliberately target members of the media covering the protests.

The non-profit group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Monday that at least 125 press freedom violations had been reported nationwide by journalists covering the demonstrations, which have devolved into violence, looting and destruction in multiple cities in recent nights. Multiple police and other law enforcement officers have been shot amid the chaos.

But the arrests of and violence against journalists by law enforcement officers covering the protests is something the United States has not seen during previous waves of unrest over police killings.

"We are horrified by the continued use of harsh and sometimes violent actions of police against journalists doing their jobs. These are direct violations of press freedom, a fundamental Constitutional value of the United States," CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna said in the statement released Monday. "We call on local and state officials to explicitly exempt the news media from curfew regulations so that journalists are able to report freely."

The U.K. government voiced concern about the treatment of journalists covering the protests on Monday. The official spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the attacks on journalists "very concerning" after a BBC News crew's camera operator was charged by an officer in riot gear in Washington D.C.

"Journalists all around the world must be free to do their job and to hold authority to account without fear of arrest or violence," said spokesman James Slack.

Last week a freelance photographer in Minneapolis was reportedly blinded in one eye by a rubber bullet fired by police. Linda Tirado was among a small group of journalists, standing about 50 yards from a group of riot-equipped police and not near any protesters, on Friday when the police started shooting the non-lethal rounds at the media, according to various journalists who were there. 

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