Are the police in the UK going beyond their powers in attempting to restrict the ability of journalists to do their work? Watch the NUJ video in this article and make up your own mind.
The video was released the day after the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) in Brighton unanimously backed an NUJ motion calling for a rethink of government policies that put journalists at risk of imprisonment just for doing their job.
The NUJ’s motion to the TUC is part of a campaign for greater recognition of press freedom. It highlights cases like those of Robin Ackroyd and Shiv Malik, who have faced the threat of jail because of legal demands to reveal confidential source information.
In his speech to the Congress, NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said, “The terrorising of journalists isn’t just by shadowy men in balaclavas, but also by governments and organisations that use the apparatus of the law or state authorities to suppress and distort the information they do not want the public to know, and to terrorise the journalists involved through injunctions, threats to imprisonment and financial ruin.
“The use of the Terrorism Act and SOCPA increasingly criminalise not just those who protest but those deemed to be giving the oxygen of publicity to such dissent. Journalists’ materials and their sources are increasingly targeted by those who wish to pull a cloak of secrecy over their actions.”
The speech concluded: “This isn’t over-zealous policing, this is a coordinated and systematic abuse of media freedom – and we must expose it, challenge it and act against those who undermine the rights of photographers, journalists and media workers.”
Statewatch analysis – damaging attack on media
This Statewatch analysis of 17 Feb 2009 examines the damaging attack on the media of new police powers and practices, and calls for urgent police training on guidelines and legislation to protect journalists.
The fact that journalists, and especially photographers, are routinely impeded and monitored by police surveillance units is caused, in part, by the police force’s inadequate understanding of the law. But there has also been a far more systematic targeting of the media and those who attempt to publicise legitimate democratic protest.