Australia drops charges against French journalists

A stacker-reclaimer operates next to stockpiles of coal at the Newcastle Coal Terminal in this aerial photograph taken in Newcastle, Australia. (Bloomberg pic)

SYDNEY: Australian police have dropped charges against a French television crew arrested filming a protest against a newly approved Indian-owned coal mine this week.

France 2 reporter Hugo Clement and three members of his film crew were arrested at Monday’s demonstration against the Adani project in central Queensland state and charged with trespassing.

Clement said on Twitter on Thursday that he had been informed by the French Embassy in Australia that the “unfair” charges had been dropped.

He thanked Australians for offering their support in the days since the charges were laid.

The arrests had fuelled concerns about press freedom in Australia after a spate of police raids targeting reporters.

Construction of the Adani project near the Great Barrier Reef has been under fierce debate for almost a decade, with environmentalists warning that fossil fuels damage the climate.

Last month, authorities approved the construction of the open-cut mine, which is slated to produce up to 27 million tonnes of coal a year.

Conservationists say the project threatens local vulnerable species and means coal will have to be shipped from a port near the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.

Supporters say it will bring hundreds of much-needed jobs to rural Queensland.