Leicestershire Police today revealed they will be issuing their own press card/badges for the English Defence League (EDL) protest tomorrow, Saturday 9 October 2010.
A police press office representative said the badges would be issued at a press briefing 10am tomorrow in Leicester, “in order to prove who is a legitimate journalist to the police officers on the ground”.
I contested that this is what the UK Press Card already represents. The press officer said the measure was being put in place for the safety of journalists after photographs and threats had appeared on the EDL forums and on the Casuals United blog.
NUJ London Photographers Branch Chair Jess Hurd said:
The press card that Leicestershire police is proposing to issue is unprecedented in public order policing. The UK press card authority issue press cards via professional bodies known as gatekeepers to bona fide news gatherers and is recognised by The Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Nowhere does this exclude Leicestershire. This is not about journalists safety, it is about control of the media and is simply not acceptable. Press freedom will not be curtailed at the behest of the EDL.
We are waiting for a response from the chief press liaison officer who will be in charge of police/press relations at the event.
Branch member Andrew Wiard explains the history of the press card and why it is fundamentally wrong that they be issued by the police:
- Update: The NUJ has condemned Leicestershire police’s plan, General Secretary Jeremy Dear said:
The NUJ is not advising members to wear the badges provided by the police.
The UK Press Card is the only recognised form of identification for journalists and is accepted as the legitimate and verifiable form of identification by the Association of Chief Police Officers and media organisations.
The NUJ does not accept that the additional form of identification is necessary.
Any media worker who declines to wear the badge should not be prevented from carrying out their normal professional activities.
- Update: Roy Mincoff, NUJ Legal Officer, has sent an urgent letter to Leicestershire police:
To: Chief Constable, Leicestershire Constabulary,
Officer in Charge of Policing Enghsh Defence League (EDL) protest on 9th October 2010,
Senior Press Officer Leicester Constabulary
RE: English Defence League (EDL) protests on 9th October 2010
I Write with regard to the English Defence League demonstrations in Leicester tomorrow, 9 October 2010 and refer to your telephone conversation a few minutes ago with NU] National Freelance Organiser john Toner.
The NUJ is concerned that Leicestershire Constabulary have informed some members that journalists including photographers are being required to wear a police badge to identify themselves as media at this “event”
You will know that the UK Press Card is already accepted by the Association of Chief Police Officers and media organisations generally as legitimate (and verifiable by ID Pin) identification of journalists.
Whilst we are grateful for your concern for our members’ safety, we do not accept that an additional form of identification by means of a special police badge should be required.
You will, I expect, already know of the “Casuals United” blog quotes on “EDL Fatwa” and has on it various photographs of photographers and comments of a threatening nature specifically against some of our members, and against the media generally which it regards as opposed to the EDL.
We would urge that should any of our members decline to wear the special police badges that they will not be prevented from carrying out their normal professional activities of recording and reporting events.
This is recognised by the European Court of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the UK Courts. There have been many Court judgments which have reinforced this and the legitimate duty of the media as the public watchdog, to record and report events.
I would refer you also to the ACPO Guidelines, which specifically states “We should actively help them (the media) to carry out their responsibilities provided they do not interfere with ours… Members of the media have a duty to take photographs and incidents and we have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what they record.”
Please confirm as a matter of urgency that all your officers will be fully briefed and will respect the legitimacy of the UK Press Card.
I look forward to receiving your urgent confirmation that the lawful rights of the media will be afforded to our members producing UK Press Cards, whether or not they wear the special police badges.
National Union Of Journalists
Police have issued an emergency number for journalists to use in Leicester on Saturday: 07791325640. NUJ members can contact the NUJ in an emergency on: 07921700352.
More updates will appear on this article as we receive them.