Not only the police harass photographers.



Photographers often face interference to their work and not only by the police.

Mark Thomas said: “I was taking pictures outside City Hall and had got a permit. I was photographing people outside when I suddenly get an aggressive Gaelic guy come up to me telling me that it was private property.”

Graham Trott said:  “I photograph people in public spaces and do portraits for magazines. I have been told not to take photographs many times in private areas, mostly by security guards. Once I had to photograph three guys who worked for the Deutsche Bank in Broadgate. The security guard came up to me and said I couldn’t photograph the building. I explained that three guys worked in that building and that I had to photograph them; I explained I was doing my job.”

He added: “I lost my rag with them and got a bit sweary, I know I shouldn’t have but when you get that constantly it just becomes tiresome. But I showed him I knew the law and in the end he let me and I was able to do my job.”





*Note:  I interviewed these photographers personally


PHOTOGRAPHERS: Told off by the police more than we think!

Photographers get harassed by the police on a regular basis. Some of them relate their experiences…

Photographer David Hoffman has been taking photographs for 32 years and thinks that the change in regulations is making everything increasingly grey. “There is an atmosphere of fuzziness”, he said.

Andrew Wire said: “I take pictures on the street and have been intimidated by the police on several occasions; I even got my equipment smashed once. No one knows what the future holds, but this is just unnecessary friction.”

Edmond Terakopian said: “Several officers have stopped me from taking photographs, but I have always stood my ground. They obviously didn’t know the law properly so I asked to speak to someone superior and they even ended up apologising to me. I had problems most of all on Edgware Road during the bombings in 2005 and recently in Gaza protests.”

He added: “There is nothing much you can do. In those situations, such as protests, you don’t have time to negotiate with the police. You’ve just got to move or you’ll get hit.”



*Note: I interviewed these photographers personally.

The law is a bit blurry…

A press conference “I’m a photographer, not a terrorist”, organised by the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) took place yesterday at 74 New Oxford Street.

Solicitor Anna turned up to share her knowledge and showed great empathy for those working in the media. She said; “I sympathise much more with you people than with the police because they don’t seem to know the law and harass innocent people who are doing their jobs.”

Anna reminded the audience of what the Metropolitan police have stated: “Members of the media have a duty to take photographs and film incidents and we have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what they record. It is a matter for their editors to control what is published or broadcast, not the police.”

After having read this aloud she said: “But unfortunately the police don’t seem to be taking this into account.”

Anna gave some advice to those present. She said “Police do not have general power to stop and search people.

 “You don’t have to be actively compliant and you may want to make a formal complaint, to change the way they approach people.

“They have no power under the terrorism act to delete photos either. They can get an order from court but they can’t seize your camera on the street.”

Anna also said that the police were “slow readers.” “They don’t seem to read the guidelines”, she said.

The law says that anyone “suspicious” should be questioned. But participants debated how this could be applied. “Do you just have to look like you’re a terrorist?” I heard one guy ask ironically.

The general conclusion I make from this is that the law is unclear and is rather arbitrary.  It’s all a bit blurry; neither the police nor citizens know their rights.



*Note: I attended this press conference.


Photographers´ view: Where will this take us?



The new photography law will affect photographers, but they won’t be the only ones; journalism itself is also under threat.

Angry photographers turned up at New Scotland Yard on February 16th. “This is not a protest”, they insisted.

It was a peaceful gathering to simply take photos and to show that they were not terrorists. Many wore a sticker that read “I am a photographer, not a terrorist.”

Paul Ashby, a leading National Union of Journalists (NUJ) member, said: “This is completely going against our freedom of speech. If you can’t photograph something now, who knows if in the future we won’t be able to write about it either? If you can’t take pictures, who knows where this will end.” 

He added: “It could stop actual journalism itself. What will be interesting is to see who gets arrested under the new law.”

Mark Singleton is retired on health grounds. He said: “This is a long overdue protest about the exercise of practising our own rights, because we are fed up of being assumed guilty. Just where is this going to take us?”

Mark Bullimore said: “It is the thin edge of the wedge before introducing full censorship. Controlling the media is equivalent to controlling people’s thoughts.

Photographers at New Scotland Yard“Terrorists would never use a professional SLR but would of used a mobile phone or compact camera.”


Richard Hering said: “I am glad to see lots of people have turned up. This law makes investigative journalism difficult. It affects not only the press but the rights of all citizens. And it isn’t just paranoid speculation.”

Ben Luscombe does photography as a hobby. He said: “This event has been really good and has turned out to be really peaceful. With this many cameras, how many terrorists are there likely to be? It is not right to take away people’s right to use pictures creatively as art, and to express themselves.”

Johnny Armstead, a freelance photographer, said: “It’s not the job of the police to tell us what we can see or not see. We reflect what is happening in society and they can’t just take that away from us. This is a third world dictatorship law; its appalling and a complete waste of time and money.”

 He added: “Anyone can take photographs, so they are just fighting into the wind.”

 Photographers feel it will affect press freedom and photographers´ jobs tremendously. This means that it will affect our rights as citizens.

They are fed up of being treated like terrorists; of being harassed for simply doing their job. 



*Note: I was there and interviewed these photographers.

Counter terrorism law affects snappers



Take a photo of the police and you could end up in jail for ten years and have to pay a fine.

The government has introduced new laws to help prevent terrorism. Eliciting, publishing or communicating information on members of the armed forces, intelligence services and police officers which is “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism” is now considered an offence.

We should consider if the new law is sensible; whether it will really protect us or if the government is over-reacting. If it is useful, should we assume that safety comes before everything, even before press freedom?

Photo-journalists are very concerned about the new laws and it is no wonder, since their ability to carry out their assignments could be severely restricted.

Photo editor Rob Karp said: “We can only pray for tolerance of this country’s freedom of the press that our forefathers fought so hard for, and maybe someday common sense will prevail.”


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