Outrage at Police plan to issue their own press card

8th October, 2010

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:

  1. 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.

    Urgent NUJ advice for journalists working in Leicester at the EDL protests on Saturday 9 October – nuj.org.uk

    Meanwhile Leicestershire police defended the card saying that local journalists had asked for badges, that they do not provide any special privileges and do not have to be displayed.

  2. Update: Roy Mincoff, NUJ Legal Officer, has sent an urgent letter to Leicestershire police:

    VERY URGENT
    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.

    Yours faithfully
    Roy Mincoff
    Legal Offîcer
    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.

20 Responses:

  1. Dave Simms says:

    It may come as a shock but a lot of staffers on local papers don’t have press cards. This is the first time in 25 years we have had a protest of this scale, so you can see the reluctance of why we don’t rush to join a union and pay out money.

    however I am disappointed to see that yet again, the NUJ are speaking out on behalf of other unions who may not have the same view.

    A further worry is the NUJ statement who have openly attacked the BNP and EDL which is hardly encouraging independent reporting and has been criticised by its own members for further endangering journalists who want to report in a neutral and independent manner

    • you can see the reluctance of why we don’t rush to join a union and pay out money.

      The NUJ does a lot more for journalists than issue press cards!

    • Stefan Paetow says:

      You do not need to join the NUJ to receive a press card. If you are a bona fide journalist, you can join any of the organisations who issue press cards, some of which may not be as… well-known as the NUJ.

      That said, unfortunately we had a very similar discussion recently about the UK Press Card where it appears some police forces are not aware of the press card (or perhaps feign ignorance because they can’t be bothered), but the UK Press Card was designed in response to issues like this one.

      The guy with the UK Press Card will most likely be a bona fide journalist because not every Tom, Dick & Harry can get one.

      Regards

      Stefan Paetow, MCIJ

  2. Jess Hurd says:

    Dave, it is the job of the union to defend it’s members and press freedom when they come under attack from groups like the EDL. Our members have been threatened and physically assaulted.

    Exposing the intimidation and violence which these right wing groups use is also our job as journalists.

  3. As a journalist who has covered the EDL since the start your comments come across quite insulting, Dave. The NUJ as a trade union has issued a statement about the BNP and EDL, as have most other trade unions. That does not alter the fact that the reporting of the EDL and BNP has been objective. The photographer or cameraperson on the ground does not choose what makes the front page or hits the TV screen, the editor does. And when you spend a year travelling from city to city watching the racism and violence erupt at every event the EDL hold, that is what you report. Wouldn’t you agree?

  4. Andrew Wiard says:

    David Simms writes:

    ” It may come as a shock but a lot of staffers on local papers don’t have press cards.”

    – Why on earth not? They are issued by members of the UK Press Cards Authority. Go to:

    http://www.presscard.uk.com/

    – and you will see a range of issuing bodies to choose from, including the Newspaper Society. And the BPPA, which issue cards to those entitled and who do not belong to any other of the organisations.

    ” This is the first time in 25 years we have had a protest of this scale, so you can see the reluctance of why we don’t rush to join a union and pay out money “.

    I’m not asking you to. But don’t rush out to apply for a one-off mickey mouse card which undermines the authority of the National Press Card, recognised by ACPO, of which your local chief constable will be a member.

    You’ve had years to sort out your press cards.

    Everyone else does.

    Andrew Wiard

  5. Kevin says:

    It’s worth pointing out that the UK Press Card has 17 gatekeeper organisations, isn’t run by the NUJ and is supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers – which makes Dave Simms’ anti-NUJ rant completely irrelevant to the decision taken by Leicestershire Police

  6. BF says:

    The NUJ has made it clear how they want the EDL reported in the media!

    You have made your own bed, now go lie in it!

  7. Gary says:

    I spoke to the Leicester press officer yesterday regarding this. I was told it was to speed up the process and we were under no obligation to register; and that official press cards were still valid and was more about seeing what press interest there was (they didn’t mention tea and biscuits or freebies though!).
    So maybe as Dave has said this is perhaps? to include others!
    I also spoke to an old hand on this who remembers the day when police issued accreditation to such protests but only if they liked you, so there is cause for concern and I feel it devalues the official press card and this close to the event is somewhat confusing as there is no information on Leicester’s Police website with regards to this matter, so we will have to find out on the day as I have registered ill soon find out 🙂
    as a last note, Dave please consider joining one of the unions, journalism/photojournalism is suffering all sorts of problems at the moment and it is important that this is fed into a union for all our futures
    ATB

  8. Jim Michael says:

    Bad precedent, which will naturally lead to police only issuing passes to those who will cover events in a manner that makes them look good. It is in the best interest of society that the truth about what is occurring be seen, free of control by corporate and government interests.

  9. Andrew Wiard says:

    According to a statement on the NUJ main website:

    http://www.nuj.org.uk/innerPagenuj.html?docid=1764

    ” The police have stressed that the badges are not compulsory and media workers can simply carry the badges in their pockets.”

    Andrew Wiard

  10. Jess Hurd says:

    Andrew I think that is the Leicestershire police backtracking. Apparently they haven’t even made the cards/badges yet. Someone is going to be up late with card and double sided sticky tape..

  11. Leah Borromeo says:

    I suggest we refuse to acknowledge police who fail to carry identification provided by journalists to prove who is a legitimate officer and who is just there for the jolly.

    What a magnificent way of distracting from the actual story people are going to Leicester to cover.

  12. Hullablue says:

    The NUJ asking memebers to ignore impartiality has caused a lot of the anti-journo feeling. I despise and oppose the EDL, and I am a member of the NUJ, but my first obligation is not to the NUJ and not to my perosnal opinions, but to balance and truth.
    Why say ‘NUJ members seek to publish and broadcast materials exposing the myths and lies of racist organisations like the EDL’ insted of ‘NUJ members seek to publish and broadcast materials exposing the myths and lies of any organisation’

  13. […] “Outrage at Police plan to issue their own press card” – londonphotographers.org […]

  14. Dave says:

    The fact that ANYBODY (press or not) can legally take pictures of anything in a public area or on a public highway seems to have escaped their attention. Don’t think that the police have a right to issue badges. Making up new laws and regulations again.

  15. Alex Ekins says:

    In reply to David Simms:

    You don’t have to get a press card from the NUJ.
    Both The CIoJ and the BPPA issue press cards as well as offering a variety of outstanding additional services.
    I agree with you concerning the NUJ statement concerning the EDL so just join the CIoJ or the BPPA. I can’t imagine any reason why you wouldn’t .
    Cheers
    Alex Ekins

  16. MURRAY says:

    Many of us have done very well indeed over the past few years without any sort of ‘press card’ at all. Discretion has always been the better part of valour and I have found that by simply pretending to be a curious bystander, people tell me things and give me vantage points. I have seen and heard journalists and photographers with heavy equipment/motor drives/flash and telephoto lenses slung around their necks given the cold shoulder by people watching an incident. I keep a Leica and a couple of lenses in an old army jacket pocket and blend in with the crowd. No wonder the protesters and police completely ignore me. Press card on a lanyard around my neck? No thank you!

  17. Jess Hurd says:

    Murray have you managed to sidle up Downing Street yet?