Photographers at climate camp allege rough treatment at hands of police

The NUJ has accused the police of harassing journalists and photographers outside the Climate Camp protest in Kent.

The union is currently compiling evidence and considering legal action following reports of harassment of journalists covering the protest against climate change outside Kingsnorth power station.

Journalists reported being searched going in and out of the camp despite showing press cards, heavy handling of press by the police during an arrest of a protester, and have photographic evidence of the police filming journalists filing away from the protest site.

NUJ legal officer Roy Mincoff told Press Gazette that in the last few months reports of police harassment has been on the increase in general among members. He said: ‘What we’re seeing in this respect is hard to reconcile with freedom of expression for the media.

‘We appreciate that the police have a job to do and a difficult job at that, at the same time it’s worrying that they are stopping our members once they’ve produced a press card and then they’re subjected to the same treatment as the protestors.”

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Deer was due to meet with Home Office minister Tony McNulty last month to discuss the treatment of journalists and photographers by the police, but the meeting has been postponed to next month.

One photographer, who has asked not to be named, said that a group of photographers and journalists became increasingly distressed by the police’s behaviour during the week’s protests – with ‘stop and searches’taking up to 40 minutes – a large chunk of the two-hour limit imposed by camp members on press visits.

On the last day of the week-long protest he claimed the police were particularly rough with the press during the arrest of two girls who refused to be searched on the way into the camp, and later that day the journalists realised that they were being filmed by police officers while filing over Wifi from a MacDonald’s restaurant over three miles away from the protest.

The photographer said: ‘I definitely feel it was about delaying us filing what we’d filmed that day. It really did shock all of us, the whole harassment we’ve experienced in recent times is generally in the context of being near where we’re working, but following us and filming us file was a new experience for all of us.”

Kent Police could not comment on the filming of journalists, but said they will look into any complaints and take them seriously.

In a statement the constabulary said: ‘The Media Services team at Kent Police liaised very closely with journalists both before and during the climate camp. In any dynamic public order operation it is impossible to guarantee that all media will get access to areas without some checks taking place. Police officers involved in security around a site have to make quick decisions on who is and isn’t searched.”

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