Pictures: Hundreds attend photographers’ rights protest (update)

February 16, 2009

News story

Hundreds of amateur and professional photographers this morning descended on Scotland Yard to take part in a mass picture-taking session in support of photographers’ right to take pictures in public.

Press photographers and enthusiasts are concerned that the Terrorism Act 2008, which comes into force today, will give police power to stop photographers taking pictures of officers.

The protest, which passed off peacefully, was organised by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) which urged photographers to turn up with their camera and exercise their ‘democratic right to take a photograph in a public place’.

Among the crowd was Essex-based amateur photographer John Perriment who said the event highlighted the ‘absurdity’ of the government’s anti-terrorism legislation.

‘I am not prepared to accept that our rights are being taken away. It’s playing into the hands of terrorists,’ he told us.

Laws ‘draconian’

Freelance photographer Peter Thompson described the government’s anti-terror laws as ‘draconian’.

London-based student Dougal Wallace, who regularly photographs protests for a college website, told AP: ‘This sends out a message [to the government] and gets lots of people together who face the same situation. It is great publicity.’

The Home Office claims that Section 76 of the new Act will not threaten the right to take legitimate pictures of police officers, contrary to fears expressed by campaigners.

The NUJ invited amateurs to attend the event in support of the wider issue regarding photography in public places.

Under Section 58 of the previous legislation (The Terrorism Act 2000) it was already an offence to record information likely to be useful to a terrorist.

But the Terrorism Act 2008 adds that it is an offence to elicit or publish information about a ‘constable’ or member of the armed forces.

This sparked fears that police will use the wording of the new Act to stop photographers capturing legitimate pictures of officers that are intended, for example, to accompany a news report.

‘Exceptional’ circumstances

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police told us: ‘It is important to stress that the new offence is not intended to target or impede professional or amateur photographers, but rather to provide additional protection to front line personnel from possible terrorist attack.’

The Met’s statement added: ‘Taking photographs of police officers would not – except in very exceptional circumstances – be covered by the new offence. For the new offence to be committed the information would have to raise a reasonable suspicion that it was intended to be used to provide practicable assistance to a terrorist.

‘Officers have been briefed on this issue and guidance on dealing with the media and photographers is available to them.’

BBC News video posted on YouTube


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Picture credits: Chris Cheesman

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Picture credits: Chris Cheesman

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