Photographers, Lawyers & Campaigners Rally for Change

14th April, 2010

Hostile Reconnaissance rally on Civil Liberties, Terror Laws & Press Freedom in Friends Meeting House. Image © Rude Cech 2010

Last night saw the fantastic Hostile Reconnaissance rally take place as 200 people filled the Large Meeting House of Friends Meeting House in Euston.

The rally heard from across the spectrum of journalists and photographers with accounts of journalists being harassed by police whilst working, being forced to erase images under the threat of arrest, detention on trumped up charges of ‘a breach of the peace’ and forced removal from covering protests using public order legislation.

The panel, chaired by London Photographers’ Branch chair Jess Hurd, included lawyer Chez Cotton, photojournalist and PHNAT organiser Marc Vallee, civil liberties columnist Henry Porter, photographer Pennie Quinton, NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear and law academic Keith Ewing.

Many on the panel were derisory of the erosion of civil liberties under New Labour, Jeremy Dear said:

Don’t believe for one second that the answer is to replace an illiberal New Labour regime with an authoritarian Conservative one.

Whilst Prof. Keith Ewing called for a press freedom bill to enshrine specific rights for journalists, similar to the Swedish Freedom of the Press Act outlining his proposal in 12 statements:

  1. A right not to reveal sources.
  2. A right not to be required to surrender images.
  3. A right to attend public events and to move freely at these events.
  4. A right to right to take photographs in a public place.
  5. A right to photograph police officers and public officials exercising their duty.
  6. A right not to be under surveillance by police or intelligence services.
  7. A right to not have equipment confiscated.
  8. A right not to have images erased or equipment deliberately damaged.
  9. A right not to be subject to Stop & Search.
  10. A right not to be restrained by injunction.
  11. A right that police Forward Intelligence Teams only act with prior legal authority.
  12. A right to meaningful accountability of police Forward Intelligence Teams.

Observer columnist Henry Porter spoke about the depressing emails he received each day on human rights abuses in the UK; a man Tasered by police on a bus in Manchester who was having an epileptic fit, the 15,000 people wrongly listed as criminals by the Criminal Records Bureau and the new powers being given to bouncers to issue fines for drunken behavior and other offences.

Human rights lawyer Chez Cotton told of her experience dealing with cases of journalists using Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights which provides the rights to freedom of expression and ACPO press guidelines. She gave examples of cases that she had worked on; the use of s14 of the Public Order Act at the G20 protests to disperse journalists, a photographer who photographed the police arresting someone in Waterloo train station and was told to delete the images under threat of arrest and the journalist who was told by police that he couldn’t photograph the scene of a fire ‘as a matter of common decency’ despite there being no bodies or a crime scene. He was then arrested for a breach of the peace, even though he hadn’t taken a photograph.

Full length audio from the rally, courtesy of Andrew Stuart.

Music Download MP3

P.S. If you are the owner of a black diary that was left at the rally, get in touch and we’ll reunite you with it.

11 Responses:

  1. Larry Herman says:

    Photographers Penny Quinton and Marc Valee told the rally of very real experiences pursuing their work and they were powerful contributions because of it. Keith Ewing took the rally forward because he set out (see above)a programme that we all can support and move into the next period of defending our ability to work unhindered.

    The rally was also impressive because it showed that the leadership of the new London Photographers’ Branch and the I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist campaign are virtually the same and this is the way to build the Union as a whole, a leadership won through action!

    Two people came up to me after the rally asking how they can get in touch with the LPB and I gave them our site address.


    Larry Herman

  2. gary says:

    Many thanks for the audio Andrew. It is much appreciated.

  3. Franc David says:

    Fab evening. I’ve sent the link fo this page to colleagues at college. Hopefully they’ll think seriously about the implications of the Civil Liberties and Press Frreedom issues raised in our talks at the Hostile Reconnaisance rally.
    When’s the next one, then ?

  4. […] is my Comment is free on last nights Hostile Reconnaissance – Terror Laws, Civil Liberties and Press Freedom rally organised by the London Photographers’ Branch of the National Union of […]

  5. […] can read more about the rally on the London Photographers’ Branch web site, where you can download a full audio file of the evening. But the highlight came at the […]

  6. “Yesterday I went to a public meeting organised by the London Photographer’s Branch of the NUJ about the systematic harassment of journalists, particularly photographers, by the police…”

    Continues with something about the evening and my reflections on it

  7. […] Full length audio from the rally, courtesy of Andrew Stuart, is available now to listen online or download. Follow this link to Photographers, Lawyers & Campaigners Rally for Change […]

  8. If we are to make progress and be taken seriously by others we need to be honest. Fantasy may be comforting but it’ll destroy our credibility and lead us down false paths.

    The report on the meeting claims “200 people filled the Large Meeting House of Friends Meeting House in Euston”. I counted 88 + panel at the start. Committee member Phil Wolmuth made it “over 100” including panel half way through. Rude Cech’s picture above shows (it’s low res and so hard to be precise) about 82. There would be a handful more out of frame. The hall holds just over 1,000 people so “filled” would be better written as “left about 90% empty”.

    If we can’t deal with the truth we can’t deal with anything.

    David Hoffman

    If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.
    Joseph Goebbels – not a model I feel that many of us would wish to follow.

    • Philip Wolmuth says:

      I did count “over 100” – I think about 115 – but it did not include the panel, and it was near the beginning of the rally, not half way through. I saw more people arrive later, though not in large numbers. I would guess a total of 130 or so, excluding the panel, is a fair estimate.

  9. What time was Rude’s pic shot?

  10. Re-reading my post from last Wednesday I see that I was wrong to include that Goebbels quote.

    Those who know me will know how strongly I feel that uncomfortable facts must be dealt with openly if we are ever to make progress but the use of that quote was unnecessary and offensive. I’d like to apologise and withdraw it, my passion overtook my discretion.