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Photographers speak out on protest coverage rights

November 18th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Photography

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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BJP: Photographers sue Met Police for treatment at Greek embassy protests

“Two photographers have filed a legal claim against the Metropolitan Police after they were unlawfully prevented from reporting the protests outside the Greek embassy last year,” the British Journal of Photography reports.

Photojournalist Marc Vallée and videojournalist Jason Parkinson are seeking an apology and damages from the Metropolitan police. Vallée makes the announcement on his blog here.

“The photographers were covering protests outside the Greek embassy in London on 08 December 2008 when a police officer deliberately obstructed them in their work. They also claim they were physically removed from any area from which they could document events.”

British Journal of Photography story at this link.

More to follow from Journalism.co.uk.

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Marc Vallée: The Met’s new photography guidelines

Photojournalist Marc Vallée comments on the new guidelines issued by the Metropolitan police service (MPS) for the public and the media on photography in public places, over at the Guardian’s Comment is Free. Full post at this link. He writes:

“It details the Met’s interpretation of anti-terrorism legislation, and how these laws should be used against photographers. Professional photographers such as myself view it as part of an ongoing campaign to create a hostile environment for photography in the public sphere.”

One area highlighted by Vallée:

The advice covers section 44, section 43 and section 58a of the Terrorism Act 2000 (58a is more commonly known as section 76). On sections 44 and 43, the MPS say that “officers have the power to view digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by a person searched”.

Vallée says that guidance for section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008, which came into force at the beginning of this year, is key.

“It amends the Terrorism Act 2000 to make it an offence to elicit or attempt to elicit information about an individual who is or has been a member of the armed forces, intelligence services, or a police officer in Great Britain – this has been an offence in Northern Ireland since 2000.”

What does the guidance say?

The MPS advice says that section 76 (58a) “should ordinarily be considered inappropriate to use… to arrest people photographing police officers in the course of normal policing activities, including protests”.

What does Vallée say?

“Section 76 should be scrapped.”

Guidelines at this link…

Vallée spoke about these issues at the Frontline Club this week. Video below:

Background on Journalism.co.uk Editors’ blog:

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Frontline Club: The media and anti-terrorism laws 7pm GMT

Watch the Frontline’s event on the media and anti-terrorism legislation here, at 7pm tonight:

Here’s the run-down from the Frontline Club:

[also see Marc Vallée’s blog]

An ‘On The Media’ discussion in association with the BBC College of Journalism

How concerned should photographers and journalists be about anti-terrorism legislation that came into force earlier this year making people taking pictures of the police potentially subject to fines or even arrest? A mass picture-taking event outside Scotland Yard organised by the National Union of Journalists earlier this year reflected widespread concerns that section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act would extend powers already being used to harass photographers.

Under the Act eliciting, publishing or communicating information on members of the armed forces, intelligence services and police officers ‘likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’ is subject to a 10 year maximum sentence.

The Home Office has insisted that the Act does not target the press but the number of photographers and camera crews who claim they have been prevented from taking pictures has increased.

On the other side of the lens there is growing evidence that Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT) are not only collating information on protestors and campaigners but also photographers and journalists who report on demonstrations.

The emergence of video footage following the death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests in April demonstrates how significant images can be.

Claims by Val Swain and Emily Apple that they were unlawfully arrested during the Kingsnorth Climate Camp has again put the spotlight on the issue of police surveillance at demonstrations. And also raises questions about the status of citizen journalists in the eyes of the police.

How much of a challenge to the freedom of the press photographers, freelances of citizen journalists – to bear witness during protests could Section 76 become?

Panel: Peter Clarke, former head of counter terrorism for Scotland Yard

Marc Vallée is a London based photojournalist who is currently working on a long-term project to document political protest and dissent in modern Britain

Turi Munthe, CEO of Demotix, a citizen-journalism website and freelance photo agency

Angus Walker, UK editor, ITV News

Moderator: Margaret Gilmore is a freelance writer and broadcaster and senior research fellow with the leading independent think tank, RUSI, where she specialises in homeland security, covering terrorism and Olympic security

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Guardian.co.uk: Marc Vallée on journalists on the front line at G20

April 17th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick

A piece on the treatment of journalists at G20 from photojournalist Marc Vallee, over at the Guardian’s Comment is Free:

“Who needs section 76 when you have a baton? Back in February I wrote how terror legislation had been increasingly used by this government, and brutally enforced by the police, to criminalise not only those who protest but also those who dare to give the oxygen of publicity to such dissent.”

Full post at this link…

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Marc Vallée: Police cite Public Order Act 1986 and order media to leave G20 memorial protest

Images from photographer Marc Vallée, who specialises in documenting protests.

On his blog: “A City of London police inspector orders the media to leave the area as police ‘kettle’ protesters outside the Bank of England [Thursday 2 April 2009 in London].

“The police officer ordered members of the media to leave the area for 30 minutes under the threat of arrest by citing Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986. The protesters had congregated to mark the death of a man who had died on an anti-G20 protest the day before.”

More images here…

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MarcVallée: Guardian investigation into police surveillance of journalists

Marc Vallée rounds up the Guardian links, following the publication of his investigation with Guardian journalists into the UK police surveillance of journalists and protesters.

He has also embedded the video that shows the police watching journalists and protesters at an environmental protest in Kent in August 2008.

Full post at this link…

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NUJ speaks out against Met Police ‘heavy-handedness’ at Greek Embassy Protests

December 10th, 2008 | 4 Comments | Posted by in Photography, Press freedom and ethics

Further to our blog post this morning, showing police interfering with photojournalist Marc Valleé while he was attempting to photograph protests at the Greek Embassy on Monday, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has released a statement criticising the Metropolitan Police for the way they handled media coverage of the protests outside the Greek Embassy on Monday.

The NUJ said it had received reports that ‘at least one of its members suffered physical injury as a result of their handling by the police’.

“There are clear guidelines which discuss how the police should work with the media and officers policing demonstrations need to be made aware of their responsibilities. The police know very well our concerns around cases like this and it’s simply unacceptable for our members to continue to have problems when covering protests. Such basic infringements of our members’ rights must stop,” the release said.

“Heavy-handed policing meant journalists were prevented from doing their jobs as they tried to report on the protests which took place on Monday. Photographs from the protests show the police deliberately obstructing photographers in their work and journalists have complained of being physically removed from any area from which they could document events.”

“The police must remember that they have responsibilities towards the media,” said NUJ Legal Officer Roy Mincoff, in the release. “Even where a protest is itself illegal, the media have a right to report on events and the police should not be taking action with the intention of obstructing journalists in their work,” he added.

Journalism.co.uk is following up, and will report more when further information is received.

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Police and photographers clash at Greek Embassy protests

December 10th, 2008 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Photography, Press freedom and ethics

Photographers reporting on a blockade of the Greek Embassy by Greek and British anarchists in London on Monday 8 December found themselves in conflict with police officers at the scene.

These photographs by Philip Caller (his other photos of the protest can be viewed here) document a police officer grabbing and lifting up photographic equipment hanging around the neck of photojournalist Marc Valleé.

Vallée, who has featured on Journalism.co.uk before in regards to his investigation of rights under the Terrorism Act 2000, also publishes the photos on his blog.

(Photos Philip Caller/ www.flickr.com/photos/filkaler/) (c) Philip Caller, 2008.)

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Stop-and-search: new guidance for police treatment of photographers

As reported by theregister.co.uk and the British Journal of Photography, new terrorism guidance for police officers has been issued. The National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) has released its update ‘Practice Advice’ on stop-and-search powers, with reference to the Terrorism Act 2000.

The advice includes guidance for police officers on how to deal with photographers, but is not final. It has now been circulated to forces for final comments. After further consulatation it will need to be endorsed by the Assosiation of Chief Police Offices. (ACPO) [information courtesy of photojournalist Marc Vallée]

This announcement follows up from Marc Vallée’s assessment of the situation here and here.

The guidance:

“The Terrorism Act 2000 does not prohibit people from taking photographs or digital images in an area where an authority under section 44 is in place.  Officers should not prevent people taking photographs unless they are in an area where photography is prevented by other legislation.

“If officers reasonably suspect that photographs are being taken as part of hostile terrorist reconnaissance, a search under section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 or an arrest should be considered. Film and memory cards may be seized as part of the search, but officers do not have a legal power to delete images or destroy film.

“Although images may be viewed as part of a search, to preserve evidence when cameras or other devices are seized, officers should not normally attempt to examine them.  Cameras and other devices should be left in the state they were found and forwarded to appropriately trained staff for forensic examination.  The person being searched should never be asked or allowed to turn the device on or off because of the danger of evidence being lost or damaged.

“Film and memory cards may be seized as part of the search and images may be viewed as part of a search.”

Marc Vallée asks on his blog:


“What is going on here?  Does Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 override the long held journalistic protection of Special Procedure Material under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE)?

“As an article on the EPUK website put it last year: ‘Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, material such as a journalist’s notes, photographs, computer files or tapes are classified as Special Procedure Material, which have a higher level of protection than ordinary possessions.’

“Which means if the police want to look at such material then they would have to go in front of a judge and explain why.”

Pictured: A press photographer files images on the move as environmental activists march from the Camp for Climate Action to Kingsnorth Power Station Hoo, Kent, England on Saturday August 9 2008. 2,000 campaigners marched on the Power Station with the aim to shut it down for the day. (Photo Marc Vallée/marcvallee.co.uk) (c) Marc Vallée, 2008.

In the meantime, until further information is obtained, Ray Mincoff, the NUJ legal editor, has issued this statement:

“We welcome the publication of unequivocal guidance showing that the Terrorism Act does not prohibit the taking of photographs in public places.

“The authorities must now ensure that police officers are aware of the limits to their powers. It must also be made crystal clear that the right to seize film and memory cards can only be used in the very exceptional circumstances where there are strong grounds for suspecting someone of being a terrorist.

“If section 43 of the Act ends up being casually used by officers in the same slapdash manner as other parts of the legislation, it would seriously inhibit the ability of journalists to work in our cities. The police cannot routinely use anti-terror or other legislation to stop journalists in their lawful and proper work. Neither must they see these guidelines as a green light to seize journalistic material, the special nature of which is recognised by law.

“We will also be looking carefully at other aspects of the guidelines to assess other possible effects on civil liberties and the free press.”

UPDATE:

Marc Vallée wrote to the National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA).

“Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, material such as a journalist’s notes, photographs, computer files or tapes are classified as Special Procedure Material, which have a higher level of protection than ordinary possessions,” he wrote.

“What is the view of the NPIA on this in the context of stop-and-search powers like S43? Could a UK Press Card carrying photographer use Special Procedure Material to stop or limit the scope of a stop-and-search under S43? or S44?”

They responded:

“There has been no change to the law. These guidelines remind officers that they can only stop-and-search photographers in exceptional cases where they believe they are involved in some kind of terrorist information gathering activity.”

UPDATE TWO (02/12/08): the NPIA has now added this statement:

“The Practice Advice makes it clear that there has been no change in the law. Journalist material will continue to enjoy the higher level of protection offered under PACE.

“For example, if a police officer suspects that photographs are being taken as part of terrorist information gathering they will rightly investigate. But once the stopped person makes it clear that they are a journalist then this will usually reassure police that they have legitimate reasons for taking photographs.”

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