Why I’m resisting the Dale Farm Production Order

12th December, 2011

 

Tomorrow morning, Tuesday 13 December 2011, I will head to Chelmsford Crown Court to oppose a production order application by Essex Police to seize all my footage from the Dale Farm eviction.

The production order, calling for all footage shot on 19 and 20 October, is also being served upon other news outlets.

I am resisting the order with the full support on the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and legal support from Bindmans Solicitors. The handing over of material, either published or unpublished goes against the NUJ Code of Conduct.

I strongly believe a journalist should protect her/his confidential sources and material gathered in the course of her/his work. If I am forced to comply with the production order I am being forced into breaching my own union’s ethical code, but also to be forced into being an unwilling agent of the state, handing over material that will surely be used as intelligence.

I also believe it will have serious consequences on my ability, and the ability of those in my profession, to report future events. We are already seeing a growing trend of intimation and violence against members of the press reporting on the frontline. This is based on a wide mistrust of the media, which has been accelerated by the increase in the use of production orders we have seen since the student protests of 2010.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “Journalists play a critical role in informing the public and the police should not be trying to hands their hands on journalistic material. Media workers are engaged in professional activity which is independent of the police and they should never be seen as collectors of information for the state. It is an attack on press freedom and turns every photographer, videographer and journalist into a potential target.”

The impact of this continuing trend of production order use will have dire consequences on press freedom in this country, to the extent that eventually we may not be able to report some events at all. The courts have recognised the vital role of the media as the public watchdog. With the press unable to operate a fundamental pillar of our democracy slips away.

The irony is that the restrictions on the press to operate freely will not come from the authorities – as we have seen with the misuse of anti-terror and other restrictive laws – it will come from the mistrust of the media by the public, believing that footage shot and images taken could be seized by the police. In effect the public may also unwittingly impact on press freedom.

I have operated in countries like Egypt, Mexico and Russia, where the press are under physical control of the state, and I have experienced first-hand the tactics deployed to stop the press reporting, from beatings in the street, journalist material seized and destroyed or used to apprehend protestors, to simply having a police sniper trying to put a bullet in the head of the camera operator first, in order to eliminate any witnesses to the atrocities they intend to commit. Is that the route we want to head towards here in the UK?

We need to be totally independent of the state, in order to get to the truth behind incredibly dangerous and sensitive situations. If no one was able to analyse the recent UK riots, or talk to the people on the ground as events took place, then we would only have the government response as to why they happened, ending in the government dictating the official line.

We need a strong and united campaign of awareness across our media organisations to resist this attack on press freedom.

The proceedings at Chelmsford will commence at 10am tomorrow morning. If we are able, judge willing, we will be tweeting from the court. For updates please follow @NUJPhoto #productionorder.

13 Responses:

  1. lexplex says:

    I fully support your point of view and rile against the ludicrous restrictions on freedom of information, but you seem to be functioning under the illusion that we live in a ‘democracy’ and have ‘free press’. These are two things that do not exist in Britain.

    I’m not even joking. Is a political system where all we get to do is pick which of two or three viable candidates gets to represent our local area in a national capacity but have absolutely no other say over who gets power or what decisions are made a democracy? No. A democracy is where everything is put to popular vote. Even if our leaders hold a referendum, they have the legal right to completely disregard it if the popular vote is against their whim.

    As for free press – where did you get this idea from? All of our key papers are politically weighted or controlled by businesses with distinct agendas. The government has very specific controls over what the media can and cannot publish, and has the ability to remove a dissident publication’s license at will. These are very significant aspects of the British legislative and judiciary system. The only publications that can rise above this are those that are wealthy enough to exercise control over the government through the party purse strings.

  2. […] is a vital case for the freedom of the press, as Jason explains very well in his post on the LPB web site. Jason is there with full backing from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and legal support […]

  3. Kevin Harvey says:

    as I see it this was a disturbance of the peace by resisting an order to vacate this is NOT a terrorist act so some understanding the level of reaction should and I hope, enter the minds of Essex Police.

  4. Angela Chicken says:

    This is a development that needs to be challenged. I have seen some very persuasive arguments in favour of filming the police recently. Even if they had the best intentions in the world I would still question their ability to actually keep the footage safe…..

  5. TSN says:

    Keep up the good work man!
    The Traveller Solidarity Network fully supports you and the NUJ in your case against increased surveillance from the state. Many people are currently under restrictive and unwarranted bail conditions for opposing an illegal eviction. The attempts to seize your work clearly shows that the police and state are trying hard to break down relations with an independent media as part of their increasing efforts to deny the validity of protest and resistance to government policy. You’re refusal to collaborate with this shows great integrity. Good luck for tomorrow!

  6. Kieran Dónal McElligott says:

    What i have just seen is totally unbelievable, the actions of the Police are completely out of order! Their brutality is is disgraceful, & damaging people’s property & hurting people’s lives is not tolerable in this day in & age! It just shows what a police State this is becoming! I have to support this cause as this type of behaviour is certainly not accepted!

  7. […] Parkinson writes on the NUJ’s London Photographers’ Branch blog about his fight to oppose a production order application to seize all his video footage of the Dale Farm eviction: […]

  8. MURRAY says:

    It should not be forgotten that were it not for someone with a camera, the world and his wife would have believed that Ian Tomlinson collepsed and died of natural causes. Further, the case of Jules Mattson who was viciously assaulted by two police officers under the direction of a uniformed inspector for using a camera on the street. Fortunately he was able to record this disgraceful and wholly unwarranted attack. Jusles was 15 when it happened last year. This is why the plod are attempting to stop us using our cameras. They are afraid of what we record AND DISSEMINATE! It has taken the Home Office to step into the breech.

  9. Richard says:

    Hi

    what update after the court hearing on the 13th Pls?
    Also this is well worth watching and networking with the people involved. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ksx_TlN2zvI
    Thx so much for putting up your page and pls keep it updated.

  10. Good afternoon all.
    Thanks so much for all your interest and support in this matter and apologies for not updating until now.
    I was hoping we would have had a decision by now, in the fourth and final hearing the Judge said he would try to make a decision on the case by Friday 27 January, but we are still waiting on the outcome.
    As soon as we get his decision we ill report it here.

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