Make your troublesome pix vanish

Fleeting image

IMAGINE you have been taking pictures of a "public order situation" and discover that some of them depict offences. What can you do? The NUJ has an answer.

First: why should you do anything? You may well feel that journalists should have no part in prosecutions: that's the job of the police and Crown Prosecution Service.

You may well also feel that handing photos over to the police puts all journalists at risk. Almost all the people who go to protests like that in the City of London on June 18 are aware of the police getting hold of press photos. Many know that the Sun, for example, has handed over photos without resistance.

There have been cases of demonstrators attacking photographers, regarding them as agents of the police. There will be more, if the perception that news photos end up in court remains well-founded. The failure of the City of London Police to get news pictures of the June 18 protest does not mean that courts will take the same line against future more carefully-worded demands.

So, what do you do? Hand over the problematic negs - or individual frames - before you are approached by the police or courts.

The NUJ has performed this service for several photographers who took pictures on June 18. If you need it, contact Tim Gopsill on 020 7843 3701.

The procedure has been tested in court. In 1988 the Metropolitan Police demanded photos of the Wapping pickets - saying they wanted them to prosecute police who had assaulted pickets. Then-General Secretary Harry Conroy and Aidan White, General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, testified that the four photographers who resisted police demands no longer had possession or control of the negs. The High Court had to agree that it could do nothing against the photographers. Of course, you can no longer receive any income from the troublesome pix - but isn't the freedom to take photos in future worth that price?

Jul/Aug 1999
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