‘Unbearable’: Police facing legal backlash over alleged attacks on media
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‘Unbearable’: Police facing legal backlash over alleged attacks on media

As tensions mounted in Melbourne during last year’s Covid-19 lockdowns, several journalists claim they were the target of grievous attacks by the police.

'Unbearable': Police facing legal backlash over alleged attacks on media

Two journalists who claimed they were sprayed with pepper spray in separate incidents now say they will take legal action against Victorian police, ABC’s 730 reported Wednesday.

Photographer Luis Ascui was covering a heated anti-lockdown protest in Richmond when he was allegedly caught on a police charge and given pepper spray in the face, causing him to capture the entire event on camera.

“The police had jumped on a protester, I think he was sprayed with pepper spray, and I just pointed my camera at them,” Mr. Ascui told the program.

Four months later, sports reporter Ian Ransom also received pepper spray in his face after being overtaken by a crowd of Novak Djokovic supporters.

Camera IconJournalists are taking legal action against Victoria Police after they said they had been sprayed with pepper spray. NCA NewsWire/Sarah Matray Credit: News Corp Australia

The tennis champion caused a stir when he arrived unvaccinated for the Australian Open and could not play in the tournament.

Protesters gathered outside Mr. Djokovic’s law office as the dispute unfolded.

“I was there and watched the scene from what I thought was a fairly safe distance,” Mr. Ransom said.

“But one of the police officers… turned in my direction and shot pepper spray in both eyes.

“There was no warning given as far as I could see. I just didn’t see it happening. It was totally unexpected.”

Mr. Ascui said he is taking legal action as a matter of principle to ensure journalists can do their jobs.

“(Police) go, and they do work; they should be able to go home safely,” he said.

Camera icon Photographer Luis Ascui says police should do more to ensure a safe working environment for journalists. NCA NewsWire/David Geraghty Credit: News Corp Australia

“When we go to an event or story, we should also be entitled to the same. We want to go home safely after work.”

Ransom said he hopes Victorian police will review their use of pepper spray, which he described as “a very serious weapon.”

“It was like nothing I’ve ever felt in my life. It was unbearable. It caused a bit of a panic attack at the time like my whole body was just kind of on a standstill,” he said.

“I fell to my knees on the road and was shaking. My heart was pounding, and I screamed for water.”