The NUJ has submitted a legal appeal to challenge a production order forcing journalists and broadcasters to hand over all their film of the Dale Farm eviction to the police.
The union says the appeal raises fundamental issues about the ability of the press to report matters of public interest impartially and without fear of intimidation, with reference to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The application is on behalf of NUJ member and video journalist Jason Parkinson and the BBC, ITN, BskyB and Hardcash Productions have also submitted appeals.
It follows a court judgment requiring the media to comply with a production order and hand over all the film gathered during the first two days of the Dale Farm eviction to Essex Police.
The police claim the film will help identify those guilty of violent disorder and attacks on the police.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “Journalists played a critical public interest role in reporting on Dale Farm, producing footage on the ground so the public were informed about exactly what was happening. Their reward is to be hounded and criminalised by the state simply for doing their job as journalists.
“The appeal launched by the NUJ will have significant implications for the whole of our industry and we are challenging this decision because the union’s code of conduct compels the union – and our members - to defend a vital principle, the protection of journalistic sources and material."
“Our members regularly face attack and intimidation whilst doing their jobs. The danger increases if footage gathered whilst reporting events is seized and used by the police. This is an attack on press freedom and turns photographers, videographers and journalists into potential targets. Journalists are not there to carry out investigatory work for the police.”
Jason Parkinson said: “The production order against me could have grave professional consequences and there is a danger it will have a serious impact on my ability to carry out my job in the future.
“I want to protect the integrity and impartiality of journalists on the frontline – journalists should not be forced to be evidence gatherers for the police. We are reporting in the public interest and there should be a clear distinction between police surveillance and the press.”
Roy Mincoff, NUJ legal officer, added: “If the order for production is not overturned by judicial review, the future safety of reporters and photographers will be at risk. They will be seen merely as evidence gatherers for the police, with major consequences for their ability to report objectively and impartially in the future. The vital role of the media as the public watchdog, so important to a democratic society, would be seriously undermined.”