Policing the press

It’s often observed that London’s police force, along with many others around the country, is no friend to the photographer.

Photographers – of all stripes, not just working photojournalists – have been complaining about police harrassment for years, but the noise has got louder in the past 12 months.

Well-respected publications such as the British Journal of Photography regularly report on jobbing photographers being harrassed, while the enthusiast’s weekly magazine Amateur Photographer campaigned for photographers’ rights throughout 2008.

But the explosion in social networking websites has fuelled awareness of the issue. Petitions have been circulated by email, groups and discussions started on Flickr, and now the issue is bubbling away on Twitter.

According to the BJP on Twitter, London’s Metropolitan Police is failing to brief its officers on regulations to protect photographers which have been in place since 2006.

Tenacious photojournalist Marc Vallee, who regularly covers political protest and often sees the police in action, reported recently on a London-based photographer, Justin Tallis, being harrassed while shooting a protest outside the BBC’s Broadcasting House.

Following links from his site you arrive at a disturbing mini-documentary by Jason N Parkinson, showing police tactics at the 2008 Climate Camp protest at Kingsnorth in Kent.

His two short films – the first at the top of this piece and the second part here – show a pretty heavy-handed police approach to photojournalists covering the event. It’s a personal view, of course, and it doesn’t include a police response.

Photographers in London, though, are looking for answers from the horse’s mouth. A police officer, a National Union of Journalists rep and the news editor of the BJP are expected to attend a meeting of a group could London Calling Photographers on 4 February to discuss the issue.

LCP member Carlo Nicora seems to be man organising that event – he can be contacted via Twitter @carlonicora.

I’ll be away when that meeting takes place, but this is one theme that I’m sure this blog will revisit in more depth over the coming months.