Watch the Frontline’s event on the media and anti-terrorism legislation here, at 7pm tonight:
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
An advanced copy of guidelines on stop and search under the section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 states:
“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.”
Here are clips of the various Mumbai blogger interviews. Fuller multimedia round-up here.
Amit Varma, who blogged a first-hand account, interviewed by the BBC (vision very poor but audio is adequate)
Gaurav Mishra, also interviewed in a text interview on the main page of Journalism.co.uk, here featured in the CBS Early Show coverage, looking at the reportage through citizen journalism:
Today, the Home Office had intended to publish new operational guidance to the police on the use of stop and search powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 for those taking photographs in public places.
Here you can read the details of the draft guidance, with Marc’s comments:
Details of the draft guidance, as originally published on his own blog:
“There is no power under the Terrorism Act 2000 to prohibit people from taking photographs or digital images in an area where an authority under section 44 is in place.
“If officers reasonably suspect that photographs are being taken as part of hostile terrorist reconnaissance then they should act appropriately, by searching the person under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act or making an arrest. Cameras, film and memory cards may be seized as evidence but there is no power for images to be deleted or film to be destroyed by officers.”
MV: What if section 43 with its powers to seize ‘cameras, film and memory cards’ is misused in the same way that section 44 has been misused by the police? Just think of the chilling effect this will have on photography in a public place.
(1) A person commits an offence who:
(a) elicits or attempts to elicit information about an individual who is or has been:
(i) a member of Her Majesty’s forces
(ii) a member of any of the intelligence services, or
(iii) a constable
MV: A ‘Constable’ is the legal term for all police officers. Elicits or attempts to elicit information: ‘does that include taking a photograph and publishing it?
(b) publishes or communicates any such information.
MV: You can get 10 years for this one! And I almost forgot, every police force in Britain is going to be equipped with mobile fingerprint scanners which will allow the police to carry out identity checks on people on the street. I think I’m going to need to get myself a desk job!
The BBC has responded to claims made in a Guardian article that its coverage of al-Qaeda had been influenced by a Home Office counter-terrorism unit.
“The programme was called ‘al-Qaeda’s Enemy Within’ and explored how the war of ideas within the Jihadi movement is becoming as important as the military frontline,” explains Nicola Meyrick, executive editor of radio current affairs.
“Was it the result of a ‘push’ from RICU? Absolutely not. The truth couldn’t be more different.”