Collateral Damage

This isn’t over-zealous policing this is a co-ordinated and systematic abuse of media freedom.

Jeremy Dear, General Secretary – NUJ

Those the words of Jeremy Dear, addressing the TUC in Brighton this week. His speech was in support of a motion expressing concerns over civil liberties, specifically the use of counter-terrorism laws and SOCPA against protesters and campaigners.  

Also the targeting of journalists by Police, he mentions the cases of Shiv Malik and Sally Murrer, but also the work of Police Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT)

Originally set up to overtly surveil Football fans and political protesters they have grown from a small unit attached to Metropolitan Police’s Central Operations to a nation-wide police tactic to gather intelligence on potential criminal activity and to deter known ‘trouble makers’ from doing just that.

Sounds like a good idea – if you’ve done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide, right?

But what has ended up happening is harassment of individuals who may have committed offences in the past or associated with those who have by being constantly filmed, photographed and stopped & searched by police at protests or other events. Even when they have done nothing but turn up at a political protest.

An article in the Guardian earlier this year looks at how this tactic of overt surveillance is being adapted from protests and football matches and turned on youths in Essex to harass them essentially into staying at home.

But what the FIT have also been doing which is even more worrying is photographing and filming journalists at these events. Something which they deny happens and if it does any images they do take of journalists those images are deleted. We are simply collateral damage.

As one of the journalists who has been affected by this I feel a lot differently. The recent example of Climate Camp last month comes to mind.

I and six other journalists were in a McDonalds down the road from where the camp was being held (not very glamorous but they have free WiFi) filing our images. When around 8 officers appeared outside with video cameras and started filming us.

There were no protesters from the camp inside or anywhere nearby. They were literally standing outside filming us working, this was not collateral damage, this was specific targeting and harassment of journalists.

One of the journalists who was also there was Jason Parkinson and over the past few months he has been putting together a film that catalogues these incidents so that it can be put beyond doubt that the police are doing what they say does not happen. It’s a short ten minute film that will be part of a longer, more in depth film later this year. You can watch it here:

In the last 24hrs since it was posted it has attracted over 500 viewers, please watch it, send it to colleagues and vote for it on the current tv website. There’s much more to come on this story.