The Australian police arrested French journalist and reporter Hugo Clement in northern Queensland as he was reportedly in the middle of an on-going protest against the construction of the Adani coal mine in the area.
Clement and his team were in the area to cover the protests and was doing interviews with the protester when police arrested them and were charged for trespassing.
Police noted that Clement and his team were covering the news on top of a railway line at the entrance to Adani’s Abbot Point coal-loading facility in north Queensland.
Three other French nationals, a Victorian man, was also charged with the same violations. Meanwhile, two Victorian women, aged 20 and 22, have been accused of trespassing on a railway, obstructing a railway, and contravening a police direction.
In Clement and his team’s defense, the protesters were already locked in position on the said railway line when he approached them for interviews and to cover the scene.
Clement said he was surprised to be arrested and that the police did not ask him any questions, ABC reported.
“We were just filming the action of those people, and we don’t know why, but police decided to arrest us,” he said.”I still don’t understand why. We are not part of the action; we are not activists, just journalists. It’s just difficult to understand why police decided to do that because we are not a danger, we did not block the railway, we are just filming, reporting what is going on here.”
The police charge sheet shows strict bail conditions have been applied to Clement, banning him from being within 20 kilometers of Adani’s Carmichael mine site or less than 100 meters from any other Adani site. Furthermore, Clement and his team are currently in bail and is set to appear at the Bowen Magistrates Court in early September.
In light of the situation, Clement speculated that Adani had a lot of power if police were stopping working journalists. “I think it could be a good example of the power of the big private company,” he said.
“That is very strange. Is it like [authorities] have something to hide, right? Because if you arrest a journalist, and then you say to the journalist that he has to keep away from Adani’s sites, what’s happening on these sites?”
Clement is well known in Europe for his work on climate change and the environment and has previously told stories on e-waste being dumped in Africa, marine debris, and the export of waste from France to South East Asia. His current work now involves French national broadcaster, France2.
The journalist has been in Australia for almost a week shooting for a documentary about the Great Barrier Reef and talking to scientists about the world’s oceans.
Regarding his involvement in the Adani mine controversy, he noted that not many people in France knew about the Carmichael mine and thinks that it is an “interesting topic to talk about.” Also, because “Adani is a big news topic here, so it’s not illegal to talk about it. Maybe it is.”
The demonstrations come after reports Adani would begin clearing land on Galilee Basin mine site this week after the Queensland government granted the mining company a water license that allows them unlimited access to groundwater for 60 years last month.
Environmentalists and water experts pointed out that the mine could result to permanently drying up the Doongmabulla Springs, a wetland desert oasis and its possible dire effects on the health of the Carmichael River.
The fundamental concern involves contamination of nearby rivers, lakes, and aquifers by what comes out of a coal mine—usually highly acidic water containing heavy metals like arsenic, copper, and lead. Particularly for Andani, it could seep through nearby aquifers supplying the springs.
Furthermore, water is an essential resource during coal extraction; in fact, it ensures a safe extraction process. According to mining industry data, companies use 800-3000 gallons of water to mine and process and transport one ton of coal.
Specific in Australia, such supplies account for nearly a third of our total water consumption, according to Geoscience Australia. Competitors for the water to be used by the Adani mine include local towns and the region’s farmers.