Why are the police using surveillance
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
UK police should stop routine surveillance of reporters and photographers
covering demonstrations in London, the National Union of Journalists
has told Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear made the call in a letter to
Smith after receiving complaints that journalists, particularly
photographers, were facing what amounted to harassment by members
of the Metropolitan Police Forward Intelligence Team (FIT).
Dear said the NUJ had serious concerns about the FIT's activities
in monitoring and recording the activities of bona fide journalists,
"A number of members have alleged that the police's surveillance
action amounts to virtual harassment and is a serious threat to
their right to carry out their lawful employment," he said.
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The FIT had a responsibility to provide intelligence to police
on individuals who might be involved in public order issues, and
people whose likenesses were kept by police were given four-figure
Photographic Reference Numbers and held on a database.
Dear told the Home Secretary: "Recently, the FIT has started
surveillance of Press-Card-carrying journalists who cover and
report on protests of any kind. For example, at a recent lobby
against the SOCPA restrictions on protests on 1 March - all members
of the press present were catalogued by the FIT team."
A number of journalists - mostly photographers - had been "victims
of this intimidatory policing", Mr Dear said, adding: "Despite
repeated requests there has been no legitimate reason given why
police photographers should be photographically cataloguing journalists
going about their lawful business."
He asked the Home Secretary:
- Was the FIT team given instructions to photograph and catalogue
- Could she provide guidelines issued to FIT Team members about
- For what purpose was information the FIT gathered on journalists
held by the police?
- Who had access to information about journalists which was
held on police databases?
Dear added: "The routine and deliberate targeting of photographers
and other journalists by the Forward Intelligence Team undermines
media freedom and can serve to intimidate photographers trying
to carry out their lawful work. The rights of photographers to
work free from threat, harassment and intimidation must be upheld."
Dear's protest follows the case in late May in which a High Court
judge rejected a claim by an arms trade activist that police were
breaching his right to privacy by photographing him at a protest.
Andrew Wood, from Oxford, had sought judicial review of police
actions, a declaration that officers breached his rights under
the European Convention on Human Rights, an order for the destruction
of any photographs taken of him, and a declaration that the Metropolitan
Police policy of photographing people at political protests and
demonstrations was unlawful.
But Mr Justice McCombe held that the police had acted lawfully,
and that any breach of Mr Wood's right to respect for privacy
under Article 8 of the Convention was lawful and proportionate.
Wood has said he intends to appeal.