Later this week hundreds of activists will be swooping on an undisclosed location (most probably in East London) and setting up Climate Camp for another year.
And like previous years there are restrictions on reporting.
In the past the media rules included black-listing journalists who had given the camp ‘hostile coverage‘ and giving ‘sympathetic’ press and radio journalists extended access but only after they had told the camp organisers what they intended to publish.
Thankfully those rules were dropped after complaints from the NUJ and all journalists were escorted around the camp for an hour a day. They also didn’t go through with idea of carrying a flag around so that journalists and photographers were identifiable.
This year the restrictions are less stringent, but are still a futile effort to control the story. Print and radio journalists will once again be allowed to cosy up with campers, as long as they sign up to the camp’s code of conduct. I did ask for a copy of the code of conduct but the camps media team did not respond before publication.
Photographers and videographers on the other hand will only be allowed on the camp from 10-6 which is an improvement over the 1 hour that was allowed at the 2007 camp at Heathrow and the 2 hours at last years camp in Kent.
We will also be accompanied by minders who will make sure “that consent is obtained from people being filmed and photographed” – It’s not like we’re professionals and photograph and interview people every day for a living or anything.
In previous years photographers have been herded around the camp to a series of photo-ops with lots of fluffy activists dressed as polar bears and penguins, which is great PR for the camp but not what most people would consider good reporting or journalism.
The camps organisers insist that the restrictions are to prevent the camp turning into a ‘media goldfish bowl’ but by placing restrictions on access they create exactly that.
The camp will be most likely once again in a field or park that they have squatted without the landowners permission for the week and will be inviting the local community and members of the public to come along to workshops.
So if anyone can turn up and attend the camp, why can’t journalists? As John Vidal the Guardian’s Environmental Editor said after the Heathrow camp in 2007:
I refused to go on the absurd camp tour. On a personal level, every journalist and photographer I talked to felt insulted. Why is a journalist – good or bad – not classed as a citizen? Why could not journalists inform themselves by going to the lectures and debates? Why should they not enjoy the same rights as anyone else? Why was my partner allowed into the camp but not me? Why could I only talk to people I had known for years only in the company of a minder?
Climate camp’s media mismanagement, John Vidal – The Guardian
Just as we should not swallow the police line that everything is going to be softly-softly community policing we should not accept the camp’s line that everything there is compost toilets and renewable energy.
It is our job to report events as they happen, not as others would tell us they happened.