Friday, September 12, 2008

Police Harrassment of Photographers

Today, the NUJ (the press union of which I am a member) releases a video highlighting some of the problems faced by journalists in the UK covering public demonstrations.The nine-minute video, called Press Freedom: Collateral Damage, includes examples of the British Police obstructing journalists in their work. You can see the video and read the full story if you CLICK HERE

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said: “Journalism is facing grave threats in an age of intolerance. Whilst on the streets dissent is being criminalized, independent journalism is being increasingly caught in the civil liberties clampdown.”

My own photography work isn't subject to some of the constraints and (if you accept the views expressed in the video) illegal procedures executed by the UK Police. But, while photographing an animal rights demonstration in Essex, way back in 1995, I was told: "stop taking my bloody picture" by a member of the "Forward Intelligence Team" (a surveillance unit of the British Police Force). The F.I.T. are more commonly used to record the presence of known trouble-makers at soccer matches and demonstrations, or those suspected of terrorism, but they have recently been accused of making legitate members of the press their targets for videoing and photographs.

Thankfully, the situation between the Press and the Police (Gardai), in Ireland, is somewhat more relaxed. I have always been treated with total respect by the Irish Police, and allowed to get on with my work. I've even joked with some members of the force about whether they were good-looking enough for me to photograph them! Admittedly, I don't do any press work in Dublin and I haven't photographed a protest for a long time, but so far, so good!

In fact, during the "World Fleadh" (say 'flar' - it means festival) music event in Portlaoise, Ireland during the summer, I was approached by a Garda Sergeant, who had seen me photographing in the town, and he promptly took me on a guided tour, showing off the best buildings - and some interesting locals - for me to photograph.

It's like another world here, sometimes!

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