A German journalist was beaten by supporters of the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn while covering one of their rallies in Athens Sunday — just a year after he was assaulted in an almost identical attack.
Thomas Jacobi, who works for French newspaper La Croix and Germany’s Deutsche Welle, was pictured bleeding from his face after the assault by right-wing extremists, who beat him for more than four minutes while he was covering a rally against immigration in the Greek capital.
“They were hitting me for four and a half minutes until some policemen appeared. None stepped in. That’s the most shocking thing,” Jacobi told the Greek news site Proto Thema.
“I thought that with so many policemen there I could have done my job today. I was wrong again.”
The attack came almost a year to the day after Jacobi and several other journalists were assaulted by Golden Dawn supporters while covering a far-right rally in the city. Jacobi said that on both occasions he believed his attackers recognized him as having co-produced a 2016 documentary critical of Golden Dawn.
The latest assault has drawn widespread condemnation, and calls for answers as to how a journalist could be subjected to a sustained assault at a heavily-policed rally. Greece’s government condemned the “fascist attack” in “the strongest possible terms,” and vowed to bring the assailants to justice, said government spokesman Stelios Petsas.
“The freedom of the press and the protection of those exercising it is the duty of every democratic state,” he said.
The Foreign Press Association of Greece also criticized the attack, promising to push Greek authorities to provide greater protection for journalists.
“The existence of organized hit squads at the fringes of rallies aiming to intimidate journalists that are not of their liking can’t be tolerated,” the association said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the German Association of Journalists described the assault as “scandalous.”
“The whole situation is quite shocking,” Sebastian Huld, spokesman for the association, told VICE News. “It’s inexplicable that police could look the other way.”
Golden Dawn is a Greek ultranationalist political party that’s been linked to violent attacks on minorities and political opponents, and it’s reported to have sympathizers among the police. In a long-running trial, 69 members of the party, including its entire leadership, have been facing charges for operating a criminal organization and other alleged crimes, including the murder of an anti-fascist rapper in 2013.
Support for the party surged over the past decade amid public anger over economic austerity and immigration, seeing it capture 7 percent of the national vote to become the country’s third largest party in the Greek parliament. In July last year it lost all its seats in national elections, and closed its Athens headquarters just months later, but its supporters have continued to agitate for far-right causes.
According to press freedom watchdogs, journalists in Greece have faced frequent harassment and violence from the far-right in recent years; in 2016, a VICE photographer was slapped and kicked at a Golden Dawn rally while police looked on. In its most recent report on the country, Reporters Without Borders said journalists in Greece also faced harassment from police.
Cover: In this is a Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 file photo of a supporter of Greece’s extreme right party Golden Dawn as he raises his hand in a Nazi-style salute during a rally in Athens. (AP Photo/Yannis Kolesidis, file)