Are they putting journalists at risk?

By Dominic Ponsford and Roger Pearson

Journalists have been put in danger by a High Court decision forcing
news organisations to hand over pictures and footage of a pro-hunting
demonstration.

This was the verdict of the NUJ and of individual photographers who
regularly cover demonstrations. They fear the ruling will lead to
journalists being seen as agents of the state and make them a target
for attacks.

Guardian Newspapers, ITV, ITN, the BBC, Associated
Newspapers and Reuters challenged a Crown Court decision last March
that they hand over all film, photographs and negatives of the
pro-hunting demonstration in Parliament Square on 15 September 2004.

The
material was demanded by the Independent Police Complaints Commission
(IPCC) under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to investigate
claims of police brutality.

Challenging the decision, the six
media groups argued on a technicality that the person who signed the
IPCC disclosure order did not have the power to do so. They also
claimed that the order was too wide.

Rejecting the challenge last
Thursday, Lord Justice Kennedy, sitting with Mr Justice Walker, said:
“In my judgment, the judge was right to come to the conclusion that he
did. Any other conclusion would have been surprising.”

The news organisations were given three weeks to decide whether to appeal the decision.

But
according to one well-informed source, they are all now likely to hand
over the pictures and footage. It is understood that the High Court
ruling left the news groups with no manoeuvre for appeal and that they
have agreed to act in unison.

Photographer Stefano Cagnoni said:
“Anarchists have already attacked photographers because they see them
as being tarred with the same brush as the police and fear they will be
used to gather material. This ruling will just make it worse.

“From a photographer’s point of view, it will just make our job more hazardous than it has been in the past.”

NUJ
freelance organiser John Toner said: “Our view has always been that
photographers should not hand over images to allow the police to engage
in a trawling exercise.

Our concern has always been that
photographers should not be seen to be gathering evidence on behalf of
the police – that’s the job of the police.

“If photographers are
seen to be doing this, they can be subject to attack when taking
pictures at public events. The same principle holds true for this case.”

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