Climate Camp: No Out of Hours Access

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.

I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist!

Launch Poster

I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! is a new campaign group set up by photographers who are fed up with the restrictions photographers face while working on the streets or, in some cases, even fields.

We will fight back against the use of terrorism legislation against photographers and the abuse by the police of stop & search powers simply because people are taking photographs.

We’ll collect accounts from people who have been stopped and searched or harassed by officials for taking photographs in public places and we have produced a ‘Stop & Search Bust Card’ summarising your rights when stopped under the Terrorism Acts. When the officers performing searches sometimes don’t seem to know the law themselves it’s vital for photographers to know what the police can and can’t do.

The police won’t even tell us where S44 (allowing police to stop and search anyone without any suspicion in a designated area) is in force so we’ll be mapping where people have reported being stopped and searched to build up a picture of how the powers are being used and abused.

We’ll be doing more than just watching, reporting and raising awareness. After the success of the event outside New Scotland Yard highlighting the Alice in Wonderland craziness of new laws against photographing police officers earlier this year we’ll be arranging more events around the country to expose how ridiculous this legislation is and how pointless the restrictions are in pseudo-public places like shopping centres or Canary Wharf.

We are photographers, not terrorists. We need to fight back against this repressive legislation and start a proper campaign for the right to photograph before photography becomes a part of history rather than a way of recording it.

This post originally appeared on Photo Legal

Vestas Workers Occupation

View these images in the Gallery

The occupation of the Vestas wind turbine blade factory continues with around 10 workers still occupying the offices of the factory in Newport, Isle of Wight. Workers occupied the factory over a week ago after management announced the closure of the factory and a loss of over 600 jobs by the end of the month. Music performed by Seize the Day.

NUJ London Photographers Branch Meeting

Photographers are under attack – job losses in local and national media, picture rate cuts and police repression on the streets. It’s time for photographers to come together and plan and build the best way to defend our profession. London photographers are meeting on Thursday 16 July 2009 at 6.30pm at Headland House to start the process of setting up a London Photographers Branch. If you live or work in London – freelance, agency or staffer – and an NUJ member this is the meeting for you.

If you are a photographer and not yet an NUJ member we would like you join us and be part of this new branch.

More Info:

Update: The meeting voted overwhelmingly to form a London Photographers Branch (LPB) The branch must now be approved by the NEC and the next meeting will be in early September to elect a interim committee.

The meeting moved a motion with 26 votes for, 1 against and 1 abstention:

This meeting calls for a London Photographers’ Branch to be established. The branch will be open to NUJ members whose work as photographers or as other lens based journalists is carried out in London.

The new branch will be active in campaigning against job cuts, rate cuts, restrictions on photography, attacks on media workers across the world and a strong force in recruiting new members to the union.

We seek the NECs approval of a new branch.

The BBC Viewfinder

Earlier this month the BBC News Picture Editor Phil Coomes joined the ever growing ranks of BBC bloggers with his own: Viewfinder

The blog sets out to discuss photography on the BBC News website and more widely on the subject of photojournalism and photography. Coomes himself is a photographer, studying at the BA Photography course at the University of Westminster under Tom Ang, who you may remember from the BBC TV series A digital picture of Britain

The BBC has, in my opinion, long shunned away from news photography which is understandable given it’s long history geared towards television and radio. However as one of the most trafficked news websites in the world and as more news is consumed online the BBC has lagged behind by miles with it’s use of press photography.bbcnewsgrab2Granted it has improved in recent years with it’s new larger image and headline when a big story is splashed on the front page (see above) and more recently it’s much improved galleries, which broke the ancient constraints of  the old 465 x 300 px slideshows.

There are still some problems with the new galleries, captions over photographs may be a pretty and efficient use of space if you are a web developer, but not much good if you want to look at a photograph and read the caption at the same time without ruining the aesthetics of both.

Another bugbear of mine is the lack of credits on images, usually it’s an AP, PA or Getty credit over the image, again something that irks the photography purist in me. But is it really that hard to properly credit a photographer? If they can credit every member of the production team on TV and occasionally the journalist who wrote the story online surely they can find the space for a credit for the photographer. Even the ‘Have Your Say’ comments get proper attribution.

A shining example of news photography online is the New York Times, whose stories have images over the full width of the article and often additional images for the story which can be viewed larger. Most importantly they are fully credited, even when they are from the wire agencies.

Closer to home the Guardian also plays photographs over the full width of the column and credits them properly. The Daily Mail uses images and graphics so heavily on it’s articles that if there were any more there would be nothing left but the headline. And of course there is the Boston Globe Big Picture blog, which plays images at a screen-busting 990px across.

Clearly little value is held for the still image at BBC News, apart from it’s frequent celebration of meaningless mediocrity with it’s ‘Your Pictures’ galleries which serve little other than free-content filler and a fulfilment of equally meaningless audience participation.

BBC News has an annual budget of £350 million, but from the look of it’s shockingly sparse local news sites you wouldn’t know it (a subject worthy of a blog post of it’s own). I know of one professional photojournalist who was offered a meagre £15 for a photo, he declined their offer.

Until the BBC starts paying properly for news photography it will remain full of bland audience contributed and wire agency photographs. I lay the gauntlet down to Phil Coomes and others on the BBC News Picture Desk to raise the quality of photography and to pay a decent rate for it. Here’s hoping anyway.

Journalists and their sources mini-conference

From left to right: Sir Geoffrey Bindman, Suzanne Breen, Michelle Stanistreet, Mark Stephens, Jo Glanville and Bill Goodwin.
From left to right: Sir Geoffrey Bindman, Suzanne Breen, Michelle Stanistreet, Mark Stephens, Jo Glanville and Bill Goodwin.

Last night Suzanne Breen, Northern Ireland Editor of the (Dublin) Sunday Tribune, flew in to the NUJ headqaurters on Grays Inn Road to talk to members about the case being brought against her by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) under the Terrorism Act (2000) to reveal her sources in the Real IRA.

Also speaking were Bill Goodwin, the technology journalist who set an EU legal precident to protect his source in a case brought against him by Tetra. Sir Geoffary Bindman senior lawyer and founder of Bindmans solicitors. Jo Glanville from Index on Censorship and Mark Stephens media and libel specialist lawyer with Finers Stephens Innocent.

The panel were in agreement that the the security services use of of journalists as intelligence gathers by using production orders against them was unacceptable and a threat not only to press freedom but in Breens case a threat to her life if she is forced to reveal her source.


“Who’s a Journalist, Who isn’t?”

Commander Broadhurst addresses the NUJ Photographers Conference
Commander Broadhurst addresses the NUJ Photographers Conference

On Monday Commander Broadhurst, head of public order at the Metropolitan Police spoke at the NUJ Photographers Conference and with all the events over the past few years he received a rather frosty response from those there.

The Commander was heckled off the platform as he began to question the legitimacy of those carrying press cards. He asked in his speech, probably rhetorically but received some very pointed answers:

I don’t know what vetting system there is for holding an NUJ card. Can anybody who has a camera apply for an NUJ card? […] How do we manage who’s doing what? legitimately or otherwise.

– Commander Broadhurst, Metropolitan Police

He went on to question the motives of journalists working in public order situations and it quickly descended into a shouting match between the conference and the Commander. Probably sensing he had dug himself deep enough into a hole he left the platform and went into answering questions.

It’s well worth listening to both the Commanders speech and the discussion afterwards as it probably explains a lot towards the treatment of press photographers by police over the last few years. If the man in charge of public order policing doesn’t know how the UK Press Card works it’s little surprise so few police respect it.

The Commanders Speech.

Discussion with Commander Broadhurst.

New South China Mall

The South China Mall opened in 2005 to great fanfare as the worlds biggest shopping mall, with 600,000 square feet of retail space over 1500 units.  However it has remained mostly unfilled and unfinished, with only 0.05% of the space being leased. It’s developers were under the misguided pretence that if they built it ‘they would come’ unfortunately the site they chose in the suburbs of Dongguan, Guangdong Province meant the only way for most people to reach it was by car, in an area dominated by low paid factory workers.

View these photos in the Gallery

So it goes

Yesterday saw the last day that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights took evidence on the committee looking into Policing and Protest. Vernon Coker, the minister for Policing, Crime and Security was questioned by MPs and you can listen to his evidence here. He gives assurances that after meeting with the NUJ in October new and revised guidance was issued to officers about dealing with the media.

We must not under any circumstances unwittingly put ourselves in a situation where photographers, journalists or others may feel that they do not have the right and do not believe that they can pursue their professional job and the public interest.

Vernon Coaker MP

Yet one day before when photojournalist Marc Vallée and videographer Jason Parkinson were covering a protest outside the Greek Embassy, both were assaulted and restricted from carrying out their jobs by Police.

Parkinson has posted a video rush of one of the incidents on which you can view here:

What I find most shocking is not the officer placing his hand over both the journalists camera’s, clearly he’s not read the new media guidelines, it’s when he says ‘Scum’ as he walks away. Not only an incredibly stupid thing to say in front of a camera, but extremely unprofessional to say the least. He was an armed diplomatic protection officer and should definitely know better.

Sadly this is the latest in a long series of ongoing incidents of Police intimidating and attacking the press.