Police agree on ‘media duty’
THE Metropolitan Police have agreed groundbreaking guidelines to prevent photographers being hindered in their work.
The move was given impetus by complaints made last summer over police behaviour during the many security incidents following the July bombings.
Working with representatives of the British Press Photographers' Association (BPPA) and the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ), Freelance Organiser John Toner was involved in a series of meetings with the Met to draft guidelines acceptable to all parties. The British Transport and City of London Police have also approved the guidelines.
Said Toner: "There were so many complaints last year by photographers who were denied reasonable access that we impressed upon the Met the need for clear instructions. They readily accepted that their previous efforts had not worked and that action was necessary. From our point of view, the guidelines are important in that they recognise the right of the media to record incidents. In particular, we welcome the advice to officers that they do not have the power to delete or confiscate images."
The three forces will now distribute the guidelines to the various borough offices and advise that they should be adhered to.
Photographer Andrew Wiard comments: "This is a historic moment. The guidelines set out that 'Members of the media have a duty to take photographs and film incidents and we [police] have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what they record'. Every police officer in London will now be given that message.
"As with the reform of the Copyright Act, and the creation of the National Press Card, this would not have been possible without close cooperation with other organisations representing photographers. That has to be the way we do things in future."
Toner added: "We do not expect that this will eradicate all problems, but we do believe that there should be a marked difference over the next couple of years Working with the BPPA and CIoJ reps has been a very positive experience and has made us stronger. It will be to the benefit of photographers for this relationship to continue."
- Watch for a report of the 13 March meeting at the House of Commons on these issues, at www.freelancenews.org and in the next Freelance - this one was in press at the time.