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:
- A right not to reveal sources.
- A right not to be required to surrender images.
- A right to attend public events and to move freely at these events.
- A right to right to take photographs in a public place.
- A right to photograph police officers and public officials exercising their duty.
- A right not to be under surveillance by police or intelligence services.
- A right to not have equipment confiscated.
- A right not to have images erased or equipment deliberately damaged.
- A right not to be subject to Stop & Search.
- A right not to be restrained by injunction.
- A right that police Forward Intelligence Teams only act with prior legal authority.
- 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.
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.