Friday, February 06, 2009

Could I be arrested for taking this picture?

Demonstration in Parliament Square, 12th January 2008 © Greg Funnell
Well this week a an article in the BJP seems to suggest that maybe that isn't such a ridiculous question. According to the article new laws that come into force on 16th February give the police authority to arrest anyone who they suspect has taken images that are 'likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism'. Of course with all laws like this they may be liable to be twisted and turned when used in the field. Some journalists fear that such laws will allow police to intimidate press photographers and prevent them from recording incidents where police are involved. It is easy to see why in some ways the new law does make sense, but equally it's easy to see how it could be abused. The BJP article references an incident at the anti-BBC demonstration on 24th January where freelance photographer, Justin Tallis, was challeneged for taking the picture of a policeman who then tried to forcibly confiscate the camera. You can see a photo of confrontation taken by the photographer Marc Vallee here. I know from personal experience that police at demonstration can get frustrated and some of them, perhaps with a lower threshold for patience, will quite often when in this position, try verbal intimidation. With laws such as this being inacted, verbal intimdation now carries a lot more weight behind it. I would suspect that invariably it will be the freelancers and the one's working for small agencies with less clout, that will be the ones more suseptable to such tactics.

According the BPPA the following is being organized as a response to the new law:

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has teamed up with Mark Thomas (writer, broadcaster, comic and political activist), Chris Atkins (BAFTA nominated director and writer of the feature film documentary Taking Liberties), The British Journal of Photography and others for a "media event" outside New Scotland Yard on Monday 16 February 2009. The plan is simple, turn up with your camera and exercise your democratic right to take a photograph in a public place.

16 February 2009
11:00 - 12:00
New Scotland Yard
London SW1H OBG

Note: This is NOT a Protest. It is just photography.

No comments: