Photographers condemn picture anonymity moves for armed police

The British Photographic Council has condemned moves by a group of photographers to strike a deal with the Met police over blurring the faces of armed police.

The group – which represents a number of UK photographers’ organisations – said in a statement today that it is ‘disappointed that the results of an informal meeting between CO19 (firearms) officers and a very small number of independent photographers should result in what appears to be reported as an attempt to vary the Metropolitan Police and ACPO Media Guidelines”.

Around a dozen Fleet Street photographers met CO19 officers earlier this week to hear their concerns about how photographs of armed police could comprimise their safety.

Evening Standard photographer Nigel Howard told Press Gazette after the meeting: “They don’t have a great issue with being photographed; they just want us to obscure their faces… and we are quite prepared to do that.”

The BPC said today: ‘No recognised photographers’ leaders were at the meeting, nor was there any representative of any photographers’ organisation, nor was there a representative of any newspaper publisher or broadcast company.

‘Currently, the recognised negotiating team on behalf of the BPC is Jeff Moore of the British Press Photographers Association, Paul Stewart of National Association of Press Agencies and John Toner of the National Union of Journalists. None of these was present when the meeting was called by Nigel Howard, who is an independent freelance photographer.”

Stewart said: ‘Members of the media have a duty to take photographs and film incidents and we have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what they record.

‘It is a matter for their editors to control what is published or broadcast, not the police. Once images are recorded, we have no power to delete or confiscate them without a court order, even if we think they contain damaging or useful evidence.

“The police seem to feel that there is some kind of gentleman’s agreement that says that we will always pixellate the face of armed officers. This is not the case and any blurring or pixelation of images would be done by the picture desk on a case by case basis.”

Chairman of the British Press Photographers Association Jeff Moore said: “It is unacceptable for the police to discuss, informally, with a group of independent photographers, matters such as this and them to then be reported as some form of agreement.”

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