The National Union of Journalists has today released a press release and an online Flash video, which gives a glimpse of the deliberate targeting of even fully accredited media photographers who are covering political protests and dissent in the UK.
The nine-minute video, called Press Freedom: "Collateral Damage", includes examples of the police obstructing journalists in their work.
N.B. this is not a directly embedded Flash video object, which otherwise would act as a web bug, effectively allowing the Flash video hosting site, and whoever is snooping on them, to track visitors to the Spy Blog website, even if they are not actually interested in watching the video.
This film features Jeremy Dear, the General Secretary of the NUJ, who has tried to engage with the Home Secretary and senior Police chiefs over this matter, seemingly with little effect, and the photojournalist Marc Vallée, who was knocked unconscious and hospitalised by the Police whilst covering a demonstration in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square.
As the video says, there are no laws preventing the Police from taking photographs in public, just as there are none which prevent professionals or members of the public from doing so either.
If professional photographers, who regularly document political demonstrations and protests feel intimidated, then what about the "chilling effect" on the freedom of members of the public who might try to snap a picture on their mobile phone or digital camera , now that there are Government and Police propaganda campaigns which demonise street photographers as if they were all terrorist suspects ?
The targeting and harassment of photographers e.g. "we know your name" etc. is more than just overzealous individual policemen, it seems to be a deliberate policy.
What is this Police surveillance footage and other data e.g. mobile phone Communications Traffic Data), which is not taken as evidence of acts of violent public disorder actually being used for ?
Who has access to this data ?
When, if ever, is this surveillance data destroyed ?
Is it it all just a waste of Police manpower and public money ?
The Home Office and the senior Police management need to stamp out this public and community relations disaster, which is just creating contempt, fear and hatred of the Police and the Government..