Wednesday, 14 April 2010

How about a Bill of Rights for journalists?

A prototype Bill of Rights for Journalists was unveiled last night at a pre-election rally on Terror Laws, Civil Liberties and Press Freedom, organised by the NUJ's London Photographers' Branch.
The meeting follows complaints by photographers covering protests of police harassment, of being stopped and searched, having camera equipment confiscated, memory cards wiped and being prevented from taking pictures in public places.
The proposer of the Bill was Keith Ewing (pictured above), Professor of Public Law at King's College London. He told the rally a Press Freedom Bill which would clearly articulate the rights of journalists should be drawn up in time for the new Parliament and comprise: 
  • The right not to reveal sources
  • The right not to be required to hand over pictures
  • The right to attend public meetings
  • The right to take pictures in public places
  • The right to take pictures of police officers and public officials
  • The right not to be subject of surveillance by police or security services
  • The right not to have equipment confiscated or damaged
  • The right not to be subject to stop and search
  • The right not to be restrained by injunctions
Professor Ewing also said the Bill should include the right to information about Police Forward Intelligence Teams, notorious among photographers covering protests for their surveillance activities, and that the teams should be made accountable.
The Press Freedom Bill won support from Observer journalist Henry Porter. He told the meeting; "What we are seeing is the takeover by the state of our personal freedom and public space."
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear (left) said it was important to win support across the board to defend and promote civil liberties. "When individual journalists are silenced the public's right to know is silenced. It is not just about civil rights for journalists."
He also claimed: "over zealous policing is all too often co-ordinated and systematic abuse of media freedom. If whistle blowers and sources fear speaking out, the ability of the media to help expose wrong doing will be severely compromised."
Documentary maker Pennie Quinton (pictured below) said police hadn't just stopped people with cameras. She told the rally: "People have been stopped with pens and paper and told they are used by terrorist to make lists."

 Pics: Jon Slattery

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