NUJ wins fight to lift 'Orwellian' injunction

An ‘Orwellian nightmare’injunction that banned press photographers from covering the destruction of an Oxfordshire beauty spot has been effectively lifted after a legal challenge from the NUJ.

The High Court injunction, made under the Protection from Harassment Act in February, banned anyone served with it from photographing staff or contractors working for energy firm Npower at Radley Lakes. The company plans to fill a lake on the site with half a million tonnes of ash from nearby Didcott Power Station.

Adrian Arbib, a freelance photographer who was covering the story for The Guardian and BBC Wildlife magazine, was served with the injunction by masked security guards and lawyers.

After a High Court challenge by the NUJ and civil rights group Liberty, the injunction now only applies to the six protestors originally named on it, referred to as a group of squatters based in Sandals House near the lakes.

Arbib said: ‘It’s a good thing [the altering of the injunction] but it’s not been overturned yet. It’s unfair that large companies such as Npower cost the NUJ massive amounts of money to get these things overturned. At the time, it was a tactical move to create a climate of fear and terrorise innocent people. My gut feeling is that it was a ploy to keep it out of the news.

‘This could happen at any protest in the future from now. It’s so Orwellian. This whole experience of having pin-striped lawyers and masked guards marching towards me – you imagine it in a nightmare but you can’t imagine it actually happening.”

NUJ legal manager, Roy Mincoff, said he was ‘delighted’to have reinstated Arbib’s right to cover the protests.

He said: ‘We told Npower that there must be a distinction made between journalists and protestors in a matter such as this, and we made it clear that we would not only fight them in the courts but also seek costs against them too.

‘It must be recognised that the media, acting within the law, is entitled to cover whatever happens in such a situation, whether the protest itself is lawful or not.”

An enquiry is set to take place next month to decide whether Npower can continue work at the lakes, after it was forced to suspend work at the 30-acre site when rare birds were found living there.

Campaigners are claiming the land has ‘village green’status, is owned by local people and therefore cannot be built on.

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