Press photographers are to stage a mass picture taking session outside Scotland Yard over fears that the Terrorism Act 2008 will heighten police abuse of anti-terrorism legislation.
Photographers fear they face a greater risk of being stopped in a public place under the Terrorism Act 2008, which is due to come into force on 16 February. The Terrorism Act 2008 is a revision of the current Terrorism Act 2000.
Controversy centres around a new, UK-wide, clause that covers the eliciting of information about a person who is, or has been, a member of ‘Her Majesty’s forces’, ‘intelligence services’ or a ‘constable’ (Section 58A).
Photojournalists believe this will threaten legitimate pictures of police officers that have been taken as part of a news story, for example.
The protest is being organised by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and led by comedian Mark Thomas.
Among those promoting the event is press photographer Marc Vallée who told us on Friday: ?Taking pictures in a public place is not a crime? There is no right to privacy in a public place.?
He urged photographers to turn up with their camera and exercise their ?democratic right to take a photograph in a public place?.
However, last week, the Government insisted that the soon-to-be-introduced law will not increase police powers to stop photographers because the rules are already laid out in existing legislation.
This is because, under the current Terrorism Act 2000, it is already an offence to ‘collect or make a record of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’.
Such a ‘record’ can include ‘photographs’ and, by implication, covers photographing police officers, according to a Home Office spokesman.
And the new Act will not change the Section 44 Stop-and-Search rule which gives police the right to stop a member of the public without grounds for suspicion.
An NUJ spokesman acknowledged that the existing Act already gives police power to stop photographers but that, by making specific reference to ?constables?, this will give officers a ?feeling? they have even more power.
The Home Office?s reaction has sparked heated debate on the Amateur Photographer (AP) magazine website in the past few days.
One forum user accused AP of being ?one-sided? after it published an article reporting Home Office reaction to photographers? concerns, for the sake of balance.
The website contributor – believed to be an activist – was fearful of the way in which the new Act may be implemented by police officers.
The NUJ protest takes place at 11am on 16 February (the day the new Act comes into force), outside New Scotland Yard, Broadway, London.
NEWS UPDATE 10 February