June 5, 2008
Police should stop routine surveillance of reporters and photographers covering demonstrations in London, the National Union of Journalists has told Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear made the call in a letter to Smith after receiving complaints that journalists, particularly photographers, were facing what amounted to harassment by members of the Metropolitan Police Forward Intelligence Team (FIT).
Dear said the NUJ had serious concerns about the FIT’s activities in monitoring and recording the activities of bona fide journalists, especially photographers.
“A number of members have alleged that the police’s surveillance action amounts to virtual harassment and is a serious threat to their right to carry out their lawful employment,” he said.
The FIT had a responsibility to provide intelligence to police on individuals who might be involved in public order issues, and people whose likenesses were kept by police were given four-figure Photographic Reference Numbers and held on a database.
Dear told the Home Secretary: “Recently, the FIT has started surveillance of Press-Card-carrying journalists who cover and report on protests of any kind. For example, at a recent lobby against the SOCPA restrictions on protests on 1 March – all members of the press present were catalogued by the FIT team.”
A number of journalists – mostly photographers – had been “victims of this intimidatory policing”, Mr Dear said, adding: “Despite repeated requests there has been no legitimate reason given why police photographers should be photographically cataloguing journalists going about their lawful business.”
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