Festival for school pupils slaps name ban on press

By Sarah Lagan

A weekly newspaper photographer was stopped from taking a picture at
a festival celebrating the achievements of children. It is the latest
clampdown on press pictures prompted by fears that sex offenders will
use them to target their victims.

Westmorland Gazette picture editor Steve Barber arrived at the
biannual Mary Wakefield Westmorland Festival, which attracts 1,000
children and has been covered by the paper for decades, only to be told
he had to fill in a form outlining the purpose of the pictures.

Barber’s colleague had previously been allowed to take pictures of primary and secondary schoolchildren at the event.

But
after the pictures appeared in the paper with the pupils’ full names, a
ban was imposed on identifying children for the remainder of the
festival.

The Gazette has a policy that it won’t print pictures of schoolchildren without their full names and refused to comply.

Editor
Mike Glover has since checked with the Information Commissioner who
said he had no objections to the paper publishing pictures and
identifying children at such events. Glover said the issue had reached
“farcical proportions”.

“Teachers always go for safety first, my
advice to editors is don’t let misguided people interfere with the flow
of information in this way,” he said.

“It has long been a
tradition of this newspaper to celebrate the successes of local pupils
and their schools in words and images and we are sure that most people
will feel this is right and proper.”

The decision comes amidst
increasing uncertainty from schools and youth organisations about when
journalists should identify children.

Robin Orr, chairman of the
festival, said organisers took the decision to impose a ban on
identifying the children because they did not have time to contact all
the schools for permission before photographs were taken.

He said: “We had to say ‘until this is sorted out, you can’t come and photograph the primary schools’.

“We live in a litigious age. You have only got to do one thing wrong and then you find yourself in terribly hot water.”

Cumbria
County Council’s health and safety department said: “Unless there is a
particular reason for a child to be named, primary children should
generally not be named.”

Mike Head, press officer for Cumbria
Police, told the Gazette there was a “very small risk” of children
being targeted by sex offenders through the publication of their
photograph in a newspaper and that there had only been one serious case
of pictures being used in that way in the last 10 years.

The Gazette is now working on an opt-out agreement with parents on whether they want their children identified.

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