A Victory for Press Freedom

25th June, 2010

Video: Journalists win payout after police admit failing to respect press freedomguardian.co.uk

Investigative photojournalist Marc Vallée and videographer Jason Parkinson have received an apology and damages from the Metropolitan Police after being forcibly prevented from working by officers at a political protest outside the Greek Embassy in 2008. Both members received the apology today:

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has accepted liability for breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The MPS apologise for this and have paid compensation. The MPS confirms its recognition that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy and that journalists have a right to report freely. The MPS recognise that on 8 December 2008 they failed to respect press freedom in respect of Mr Vallée and Mr Parkinson.

The police have accepted liability for breaching Article 10 and made a payment of £3,500 compensation to each and are paying their legal costs.

Responding to the settlement Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary said:

Professional journalists and photographers have detailed numerous attempts by police officers to stifle the reporting of protests. Today we have achieved a significant victory – it is right that the police admit liability, apologise and compensate those whose basic human rights were breached in such a blatant and aggressive manner.

The police need to quickly learn the lessons of these shameful events, recognise the importance of media freedom and take the necessary steps to recognise the press card during police training to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The result is a huge boost for media freedom and the rights of photographers.

On the day of the protest armed officer from the Metropolitan police’s diplomatic protection group pulled Vallée’s camera away from his face and covered the lens of Parkinson’s video camera whilst stating “you cannot film me.”

NUJ Legal Officer Roy Mincoff said:

The police need to learn that journalists and photographers have a right to report and photograph as recognised by the European Court of Human Rights. The NUJ has held the police to account before and will do so again unless all officers at all ranks abide by the law

Chez Cotton, Head of the Police Misconduct department at leading civil rights firm Bindmans LLP said:

It is of grave concern that an armed, diplomatic officer of the Metropolitan Police Force felt it was appropriate to call these journalists ‘scum’ and stop them from working and was happy to do so in full knowledge that he was being filmed.

My clients were physically prevented from reporting on protest and political unrest of international importance.  Just before he was frog marched by officers away from events, Mr Parkinson filmed an officer punching a protester in the side of the head, although the protester appears to be already under the control of several officers.  That the police appeared not to want these journalists to film what appeared to be extremely brutal arrests using force is a cause for further alarm.

Further to this public acknowledgment that his officers have breached the fundamental right of journalists to report, and in light of wide ranging criticisms of how the press were stopped from reporting at G20 and other ‘politically sensitive’ events, it is very much hoped that the Commissioner will take immediate steps to ensure his officers act properly and support rather than obstruct the press in the important role they play in keeping the public informed, including of police wrong doing.

The pair were not disrupting police activity and had not had any contact with the police prior to the incident. They had complied with requests to leave the area but were forcibly removed and told to report from a distance.

Marc is the London Photographers’ Branch Secretary and Legal Rep and Jason is the branch Welfare Officer.

5 Responses:

  1. […] “A Victory for Press Freedom” – londonphotographers.org […]

  2. steve phillips says:

    Any disciplinary action against the officer/s
    involved ?

  3. […] understand that he has the legal advice of the very same solicitor whose work last week resulted in Marc Vallee and Jason Parkinson each getting £3,500 compensation for being pushed around and forced to stop working outside the […]

  4. […] “for our own safety” and generally restricted whilst trying to work, Whilst definitely not a new issue, it is still important as it restricts the freedom of the press in a democratic […]

  5. Frank burnside says:

    Same press coward scum that killed Diana the type that take photos of the dying instead of trying to help them…you have no sympathy from the normal decent hard working general public..