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Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Police Powers Allows Them To Stop You Photographing Them

New "anti-terrorism" measures came in to force yesterday. Alas, the wording is so loose, that it will allow Police to stop you taking pictures of them. This is a huge issue and completely tramples on the freedom of press. Two main issues come forth with this; firstly, if you are covering a demonstration or a riot, the Police can object to you photographing them and you can get arrested. This will put a stop to reporting a situation honestly and properly, and aesthetically will result in pictures of demonstrators with nothing to balance things out with. Secondly, if you're in a situation where you see a Police officer doing something wrong, you won't be allowed to photograph them. Its an outrage. Basically, the Police will be able to arrest all photographers in a given situation, ending up in no visual record of what happens.
The big problem is how loosely the wording is on the new measures; its up to individual officers to use their judgement on the scene. In my 20 years on the streets as a news photographer I've across many descent, honest and mature Police officers. Sadly I have also come across a fair number of idiots who do not have the mental ability to handle the power, responsibility and importance the job of a Police officer entails.
If we're at the mercy of the latter kind, which sadly seems to increase by number as years go by, then many news assignments just cannot be covered properly any more.
I urge you to write to your MPs and to the papers objecting these ridiculous new powers. Its ridiculous that a press photographer with a press card can be considered a terrorist. One would assume that a terrorist would probably use a discreet camera phone or a hidden camera and not a couple of pro DSLRs and lenses.

Further Reading:


  1. This is a very, very sad day in this nations history. That may seem a little over the top-it's is not. This is a serious erosion of our freedom as news gatherers and of the liberty of the general public. Finally, photography IS a crime. As Edmond points out, I just can't imagine the run-ins we are going to have with the constable on the street once he is 'educated' in this new act. Even on the most routine of assignments.
    Very sad day...

  2. It most certainly is. This could effect everyday assignments as you rightly say. The second these officers are given the powers, they will be abused left, right and centre. As it stands I've heard of so many photographers being told they're not allowed to photograph the Police; well, now its law! How ridiculous.
    Everything from traffic accidents to murder scenes, demos to riots - how can these be photographed without including Police officers?!

  3. I've followed this on LS and other places, but now, as I see, it became official!
    This is completely insane (arrest me: I'm a terrorist for thinking -and saying- that!), hope this stupid law will not come too quickly in Belgium, or there will soon be more photog in jails than real terrorist.
    As you say, do terrorists use pro dslr and show up in front of them?
    This is an mean attempt to basic democracy and freedom of speech. The more crazy with this, is that everybody is still taking pictures with point-and-shoots or camera-phones, will they be also arrested? It'll be loads os people!!!

    I'm going to train with Carl Lewis if this is the only way

  4. ...I know, its all absolutely crazy. Its so crazy its almost comical in its stupidity. The Police have managed to be able to use the Terrorism Act as an excuse for everything; its their "cart blanche". Its so obvious why they've been granted this extra power. Any situation where they don't want photographers getting "under foot", they'll quote the act's amendments and start arresting us.


  5. Outrageous! 1984, here we come, if we are not already there. I suggest a mass protest followed by a mass arrest to really highlight the issue.