We’ve already commented about how the photographers rights in the UK were rapidly being eroded by aggressive cops, but things look set to take a turn for the worse with the introduction of section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 today.
From today, you could be arrested for taking and publishing a photograph of someone who works for the police force, the intelligence services or the armed forces.
This is clearly deeply worrying news for both photojournalists covering political dissent, and for the protesters themselves who inevitably end up capturing photos of police officers while documenting street protests.
Indeed, the National Union of Journalists and the British Press Photographers’ Association have gone on record saying that the law would extend powers that are already being used to harass photographers and would threaten press freedom.
Terror legislation has increasingly been used by the government to criminalise and harass both protesters and photo-journalists – some of whom have played an important part in capturing heavy-handed or illegal police activity.
The law makes it an offence to elicit or attempt to elicit information about an individual who is or has been a member of the armed forces, intelligence services, or a police officer in Great Britain, and it also illegal to publish such information.
In other words, you could be arrested for taking and publishing a picture of a cop if the police decide that it is “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.”
If charged, the onus would be on you to prove that you had a “reasonable excuse” to take the picture in the first place.
Anyone who has covered political protest in the past will know that it’s not unusual for the police to use the law (‘obstruction’ is a favourite) to get protesters out of the way.
The gloriously fuzzy wording of the section 76 hands police officers powers to arbitrarily arrest photographers may be capturing scenes the police wouldn’t like to seen by others.
The new legislation adds to the equally vague section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which has already been used against photographers doing their job.
This morning, photographers and filmmakers – and the political activist and comedian Mark Thomas – gathered in their hundreds outside New Scotland Yard to exercise their democratic right to take a photograph in a public place. We suspect this won’t be the last protest.
‘I’m a Photographer …not a Terrorist’
Counter Terrorism Act 2008
Documenting dissent is under attack
Photographers fear they are target of new terror law
UK Photographers Rights
Photographers Rights And The Law In The UK and Rights On Arrest