Photographers speak out on protest coverage rights

Photographers feel they have come under attack ‘from all sides’ when covering demonstrations and public order situations, warned photojournalist and investigative reporter Marc Vallée last weekend.

Vallée, a spokesman for campaign group I’m a Photographer not a Terrorist, suggested that photographers have been affected by the police’s attempts to create a hostile environment for terrorists in such situations.

At the same time photographers also feel that they have been unjustly targeted by protestors, who misunderstand their role.

Photojournalists on the ground are workers, said Vallée, adding that it’s a common law right for photographers to take photographs. Protestors do not have to co-operate with this and can turn away if necessary, he said.

Vallée made his comments during a panel discussion held as part of ‘Signs of Revolt’, an exhibition at the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the massive protests against the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle.

But Vallée saved most of his condemnation for the police, suggesting that there were a number of reasons police officials would not want photographers at protests.

The Met and the Home Office issued new guidelines, but these have not filtered down to other groups, such as the TSG [Territorial Support Group], he said.

Damien Gayle is a postgraduate journalism student at City University, London.

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