One in three MPs back photography campaign

July 3, 2008

More than a third of MPs have now backed Austin Mitchell’s parliamentary petition on the right to take pictures in public places unchallenged by officials.

The Early Day Motion (EDM) – tabled in the House of Commons in March – has so far won cross-party support from 231 of the 646 elected members.

Austin Mitchell canvassed the support of fellow politicians following growing reports of police and other officials stopping innocent photography enthusiasts taking pictures in public areas.

Mitchell, the MP for Great Grimsby, drew on cases reported to Amateur Photographer (AP) magazine to help him compile the EDM.

Austin plans to raise the issue directly with Home Office Minister Tony McNulty and include a representative from Amateur Photographer as part of a ‘delegation’ to meet the minister.

However, Austin’s office tells us that the plans have been put on hold while Austin recovers from a broken rib sustained in a recent fall.

It now seems unlikely that the planned Home Office visit will take place before Parliament?s summer break.

Meanwhile, the EDM continues to attract interest from professional photographers, owing to rising tensions between police and press photographers.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith last week responded to concern expressed by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) following reports of police filming photographers and journalists during demonstrations and protests.

However, the Home Secretary?s reply is being seen as giving the ?green light? to police officers imposing unacceptable restrictions on the rights of photographers.

In her letter to NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear (see letter below), the Home Secretary wrote ?? Decisions may be made locally to restrict or monitor photography in reasonable circumstances. That is an operational decision for the officers involved based on the individual circumstances of each situation.?

Such implied restrictions on photography in certain circumstances – at the behest of local chief constables – is similar to the Home Office?s response to AP readers following complaints about treatment of amateur photographers in recent months.

In February Home Office Minister Tony McNulty wrote: ‘There is no general restriction on photography in public places, and there is no presumption of privacy for individuals in a public place. However, decisions may be made locally to restrict photography, for example, to protect children, or at organised events.’

For details of the EDM – and the latest MPs to back it – click HERE.


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Picture:The Home Secretary’s letter to the NUJ (below) appears to give police officers a licence to stop photographers in public areas in certain circumstances. The tone of the Home Office letter is similar to those sent to AP readers in recent months

Home Secretary letterHome Secretary letter

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