Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ordered the Australian embassy to investigate an assault by US riot police on an Australian television reporter and cameraman while reporting on protests outside the White House.
Mr Morrison spoke to the Seven Network on Tuesday afternoon to check on the crew’s welfare and offer his government’s support, should they wish to pursue a formal complaint against police through the Australian embassy.
He also ordered the embassy to investigate the incident and register Australia’s “strong concerns” with local authorities.
During a sixth night of protests on Monday local time in Washington DC, cameraman Tim Myers was hit with a riot shield and punched in the face while reporter Amelia Brace was hit with a truncheon.
Both were shot with rubber bullets and tear-gassed.
“I could barely breathe and it is really hard to continue speaking during that,” Brace said afterwards.
“I also got a rubber bullet to the backside and Tim got one at the back of the neck, so we will have a few bruises tomorrow.”
Seven’s news director Jason Morrison said the PM had contacted the network.
“He’s contacted 7 News, describing the violence towards Amelia Brace and Tim Myers from police as ‘troubling’ and asked for it to be followed up,” Jason Morrison said.
The incident came as Myers and Brace were huddled up against a fence to the side of the main group of protesters, apparently taking no part in the demonstration. The footage, broadcast on live on Sunrise, shows police in riot gear storming past before hitting the camera, which goes black.
Brace said Myers had been “smashed” by police.
‘He shielded me from it, so I’m very grateful for him,” she said.
“There really just was no escape at that point. We had the National Guard behind us and the police coming through and there was no way for us to go, so there was no choice but to hide in a corner hoping that they passed by, and as you can see from those pictures, they did not.”
The confrontation came as police cleared a peaceful protest outside the White House so Mr Trump could walk to a nearby historic church for a photo opportunity after announcing he had ordered the military onto US streets to quell days of demonstrations following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
There have been numerous reports of assaults on journalists and camera crews at protests across the US in the past week.
The Nine Network’s US correspondent, Tim Arvier, and his crew were arrested in violence in Minneapolis on Saturday (US time).
On Saturday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said it appeared media crews had been targeted by some police officers and protesters.
“Targeted attacks on journalists, media crews and news organisations covering the demonstrations show a complete disregard for their critical role in documenting issues of public interest and are an unacceptable attempt to intimidate them,” program director Carlos Martínez de la Serna told USA Today.
The CPJ said it was investigating reports from Louisville, Kentucky, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Washington, DC. It said it had heard of up to 68 incidents of journalists being arrested, assaulted or having their equipment damaged while covering the chaos.
On Monday, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the union that represents Australians journalists, wrote to the US ambassador seeking an end to attacks on reporters, camera operators and photographers covering the George Floyd protests.
Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Australia’s ambassador to the US should make representations on behalf of the Seven Network crew.