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Turkish cops harass CNN reporter on air

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
May 31, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ivan Watson was reporting live from Istanbul for CNN when cops approached him
  • They demanded to see his credentials and passport
  • He was escorted in police custody
  • Watson was not arrested, and police apologized for the incident

(CNN) -- A CNN correspondent was harassed by Turkish plainclothes police as he was live on air, reporting on tensions between the officers and demonstrators on the first anniversary of mass protests in Istanbul.

International correspondent Ivan Watson had just finished explaining that police had closed off central Istanbul to prevent demonstrators from being able to lay flowers at the sight of last year's protests when he himself was manhandled by officers.

Viewers of CNN International on Saturday morning watched as officers demanded to see Watson's press credentials and passport, as well as those of his crew.

The camera kept rolling as the officers grabbed Watson and started walking with him. One officer kneed him in the back. They also broke the microphone off CNN's camera while wrestling it out of the hands of the cameraman.

The veteran reporter told anchor Errol Barnett, "Errol, we're being detained right now."

Watson and his team were escorted in police custody. Police officers argued that Watson's press accreditation, issued by the Turkish prime ministry, could have been "counterfeited" and that he had to produce a passport. He was not permitted to leave until the passport was retrieved from the nearby CNN bureau. But officers didn't arrest him.

According to Watson, after about a half-hour, the CNN team was released, and another officer apologized for the officer who had kneed him. Police also apologized for the inconvenience.

Watson is based in Istanbul. In his 12 years in the country, the press credential has sufficed as proper identification for reporting. The demand to see a passport was unusual.

He was at Taksim Square, where mass protests surged a year ago.

The protests began over the proposed development of a park but swelled in large anti-government demonstrations that were met with a government crackdown.

Activists called for nationwide demonstrations to mark the first anniversary of the protests, but, as Watson reported, police were denying them that opportunity.

On Saturday, Gezi park -- the place where the protests started -- was closed off, and both riot police and plainclothes officers were deployed in large numbers.

The Turkish government accuses protesters of trying to undermine Turkey's economy and is not allowing public displays of dissent, especially in this sensitive place, Watson said.

Protesters say they want to express their opinions freely.

As night fell Saturday, police fired tear gas in Taksim Square to disperse the demonstrators. There were some scuffles between groups of protesters and riot police.

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