Tuesday, February 10, 2009

British Journalists in Mass Photography Protest Outside Met Police HQ

Recent years have seen an increase in the use of police powers to interfere with the right of British citizens and journalists to take photographs in public places.

Of particular concern is a clause within the Counter Terrorism Act which sanctions the arrest and imprisonment of anyone whose pictures are "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism."

Even before the Act becomes law on Monday 16th Feb, police have been accused on several occasions in recent months of attempting to interfere with journalists and members of the public taking photographs in public. Recent examples include:

  • photographer Jess Hurd had her camera forcibly removed and was arrested for 45 minutes while taking photographs of a wedding in London's Docklands in December 2008. National Union of Journalists spokesman Jeremy Dear said of the incident: "Despite the government’s warm words about the right to photograph in public and new Home Office guidelines it appears the routine abuse of these powers goes on."
  • a Metropolitan Police Sergeant attempted to forcibly remove the camera of NUJ member Justin Tallis while photographing an anti-BBC demonstration on January 24th. Full story here.
  • also in January, an amateur photographer was stopped by police while taking photos of ships in Cleveland. He was asked if he had any terrorist connections and told that his details would be kept on file.

Meanwhile, in March 2008, Austin Mitchell MP obtained 190 signatures for an Early Day Motion
protesting the recent spate of incidents involving police officers, police community support officers or wardens attempting to confiscate cameras and other equipment or otherwise interfering with the right of citizens to take photographs in a public place.

In response to these trends, and on the day the above law officially comes into effect, photographers from across the country will be conducting a mass picture taking session outside New Scotland Yard, home of the Metropolitan Police.

The photo shoot is supported by the National Union of Journalists and the British Journal of Photography.

The event also has a facebook page here.

An opportunity for some happy snapping.

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1 comment:

Steve Smith said...

In the absence of any clauses, the term "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism" is sufficiently loose for the police to use this under a great many circumstances ('circumstances' being suitably flexible to be hugely expanded ad infinitum). If I take a photo of Guildford train station, this photo is likely to be useful to a terrorist (again loosely defined!) if s/he manages to obtain this photo and has a goal of attacking the subject.