Journalists Not Evidence Gatherers

15th August, 2011

7th August 2011. Police Evidence Gathering Team in Tottenham during disorder. © Jules Mattsson/LNP

The disorder that swept England recently has calmed, leaving untold destruction, injury and a number of deaths in it’s wake. Lens-based journalists are often in the frontline of these situations to report, receiving aggression from all sides.

Already a number of photographers have been injured and mugged while covering disturbances, radio cars burnt and TV networks have had to pull their crews out of entire areas. The risk to media workers in this sort of situation is massive, especially to those who have to work with visible equipment.

The unpublished material we create in the process of news gathering must not be used as evidence by the police, as that not only means our presence is changing the outcome of a situation significantly, but also puts our collective safety at severe risk.

For this reason, journalistic unpublished material is protected under the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act, and requires a special court order to be obtained for seizure, which can be fought. Recent statements by MP’s and prime minster David Cameron in the house of commons, suggesting that the media have a ‘responsibility’ to hand over our material is putting us in serious danger.

The NUJ has released a statement condemning this in the strongest terms, and many journalists are angered by his comments. This branch committee is very concerned by the impact that his words will have on the risks faces by lens based journalists, and urges our members to exercise caution in these situations and to resist any attempts to seize their material for evidential uses.

We will fight to protect our members from this sort of attack on safe & ethical reporting, NUJ members can access 24 hour emergency legal assistance by calling 0800 5877530, and we urge any members facing seizure of material to contact us.

We express our solidarity and best wishes to those journalists injured during recent events, and hope for their quick recovery.

Other related articles:

We Are Press Not Police Intelligence

Protecting Journalistic Material


3 Responses:

  1. Interesting, isn’t it. How some of the police (not all) have objected to photographers taking photographs of normal events, as well as not-so-normal events over the past few years and have tried to stop photographers going about their normal business (although I found that my NUJ card solved that problem more than once) – but when they suddenly want some of the photographs to help them, that’s a different situation.

  2. Andy says:

    Journalists need to destroy evidence they’re not going to use in broadcasts, BEFORE police apply for court orders which would stop them doing so.

    Also, we need better technology to avoid these situations. Cameras with filters which automatically blur faces. That might make it safe for journalists to do their job again.

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