Watching the detectives: the media and anti-terror laws

Uploaded on Jul 09, 2009 / 247 views / 2206 impressions / 0 comments

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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 b

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