Saturday, 7 March 2009

Guardian: Video shows police monitoring journalists at climate camp

The Guardian is running on its website today a video shot by police, accompanied by their own critical commentary, showing how officers monitored campaigners and journalists – and demanded personal information – at last August's climate camp demonstration at Kingsnorth, Kent.
The camp was held to protest against the building of the country's first new coal-fired power station in 30 years.
The Guardian claims: "Whenever journalists were in the area, the lens was almost exclusively pointed at them. In total 10 journalists were monitored emerging from the camp, where they had been interviewing protesters.
"The officers zoomed in to pick out the logo on the back of a Sky News cameraman's jacket, monitored several photographers and followed an ITV Meridian news crew, including the anchor of the evening show, Ian Axton.
"A lot of press officers aren't there. Just think they can bloody wander in and out of the field. It's wrong, I think," the lead officer remarked when the ITV crew was in shot. "I trust them less than the protesters."
"After spotting a videographer and photographer across the road, the assistant officer said: "Inquisitive, ain't they – these two, by the pole."
The lead added: "He don't like having his photograph taken – that one there with the bald head." The Guardian notes that the NUJ has documented eight occasions over the last year when, it says, police surveillance officers photographed and filmed journalists.
"In May the NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear, alerted the Home Office that journalists – particularly photographers – were "routinely and deliberately" watched by police surveillance teams.
"Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, replied that the government "greatly values" the free press, but "decisions may be made [by police] locally to restrict or monitor photography in reasonable circumstances". Senior police officers in turn also assured the NUJ that journalists were "not being targeted unfairly".
The Guardian also claims: "Moments after the camera stopped rolling at the Climate Camp, a group of journalists, including some of those caught on the surveillance footage, were followed by a team of surveillance officers to a McDonald's restaurant several miles from the camp.
"Police filmed the journalists, who were using wireless computer networks to file their material, through the restaurant window.
"Kent police later apologised after complaints about the McDonald's surveillance incident and the use of the Section 60 order to subject journalists in the area to intensive searches."

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