Photographers and journalists: Will they continue to be harrassed?


Has the police’s approach to photographers already changed? What better occasion than tomorrow, in the midst of the G20 protests, to find out!
The NUJ (National Union of Journalists) is doing everything in its power to arouse awareness; to stop the police interfering with the work of photographers and journalists.
They have held conferences, published numerous posts on blogs, and written articles. Their intention is to make us aware of this situation, since, as Henry Porter stated in the Guardian: “terrorism laws have gone off the rails.”
Thanks to them, the police apologized to journalists for the excessive surveillance at Climate Camp, Kent. According to NUJ, the force’s Assistant Chief Constable Allyn Thomas said: “We accept that police should not have filmed legitimate journalists or camera crews.”
However it is not all over yet, and we mustn’t raise our hopes until we see real changes.
Whatever happens, at least there is one thing we can be sure of: The NUJ will persevere until those changes happen.

Journalists and Photographers “harassed” at Climate Camp. Paul Lewis gives us an insight


Police have apologized to journalists and photographers. Their motive: for the excessive surveillance of journalists and photographers in the Climate Camp in Kent last August.

This was a protest about the first new coal-fired power station in 30 years. These professionals had a right to report on it, but unfairly found great difficulty in carrying out their tasks. They were treated disrespectfully and questioned for hours.

Guardian reporter Paul Lewis was nominated “Young Journalist of the year” in 2007, and has researched this issue thoroughly. He feels that what happened “says a lot about the police and their approach to journalists.”

I decided to visit the Guardian, to speak to Paul Lewis in person. Smartly dressed in black, he approached me in the modern-looking waiting area and sat down in front of me on one of the kiss-shaped seats, where I was sat clutching my note-book expectantly.


Paul is a busy man and did not have a lot of time to spare, so he got to the point quickly. His first words: “It is definite that the police pursued photographers and journalists.”

I asked him if he could explain how the police interfered. He answered instantly without a second of premeditation. You could tell he knew what he was talking about. “There are two things to point out.”, he said. “The first thing is that it was harassment.”

He added: “The second element is the surveillance carried out by the police.”

Paul expressed special concern for the amount of time media workers were held up. He said: “It takes a long time to occur, around 2 or 3 hours, which really interferes with our work.”

Paul Lewis has hopefully helped to arouse awareness. Police should be more conscious of the law because, after all, press cards exist for a reason.

Who should be given a press card?


In a conference at Jacobs Pro Lounge in New Oxford Street, Jason Parkinson gave his opinion about issuing press cards.



He talked about what sort of people should be given a card. “If you are a news gatherer that’s Ok, but it’s too broad.”


Jason added: “No way should you be given a press card just for being a feature writer. This card has to be tightened up because there will be more trouble, more terrorism and officers trying to get us off the street.”


He also talked about a card in New York for people who have been reporting hard news for five years. He said: “I don’t want to see that here. In a democracy you are either working journalist gathering news on the street or you are not.”


According to the authorities, you are issued a card if you are working “professionally as a media worker who needs to identify himself or herself in public.”


But what I ask myself is, even if you do have a press card, does it make such a difference? How many people have been questioned for up to an hour even after proving they are professionals?


The best bet is to act responsibly. Jason Parkinson said: “You don’t go to a demonstration with a cocktail in one hand and your camera in the other!”


A photographer being asked “what he is doing” is not the problem…

journalist_assaualtedagile_resized_x_300 MP Austin Mitchell was counter-argumented, after having said that the new legislation which affects photographers was “horrifying.”

The interviewee for BBC said that, because “we live in diffcult times”, he didn´t see anything wrong at all with a police officer “coming up to you and asking what you´re doing.”

He made it look as though photographers were whingers who were over  exaggerating the problem.

I don´t think this is the case.  Being asked “what you are doing” in a polite way is not an issue, what is disturbing is being harrassed and treated as though you were a terrorist when you are doing your job.

Watch the following link to get a general idea of how photographers get treated as if they were real terrorists.


*Note: The interview was on BBC radio 4. To hear it to it go to:


Arousing awareness

Why is freedom to photograph police necessary? This question is best explained with the following image. Taken during the Vietnam War in 1968, it pictures a police chief in Saigon executing a Vietcong prisoner.




Possibly this is the most memorable event of the war, not because it was the most tragic, but because it happened to be photographed.

Photographs can help tremendously to draw attention to a particular event. “It is easier for us, most of the time, to recall an event or person by summoning up a single image”, wrote Harold Evans.

He explains this with a personal example. “For me, the Vietnam War is remembered by the moment of the street execution of a Vietcong officer in civilian clothing.”

The public reaction at this time would not have been the same if it hadn’t been for this photograph. A key objective of journalism is to arouse awareness, especially when it comes to wars and other tragic happenings, and photographs are the most effective way of doing this.

But photographers in the UK now have to think twice before taking photos of the police, since they fear breaking the law. Consequently, we may have to rely more on words than pictures.

Creating awareness of events concerning the police, such as police brutality, will now be tougher as a result of the new anti-terrorism legislation.