Photographers lobby MPs to overhaul new terrorism law

Photographers are planning meetings with MPs and Government ministers as they attempt to overhaul a new law that they say restricts their freedom.

One photographer has told Press Gazette that change is urgently needed – after he was stopped from working by police for ‘driving too slowly’in a 20mph zone.

Last month, more than 300 photographers protested outside New Scotland Yard as the 2008 Counter Terrorism Act came into force.

Photographers said Section 76 could prevent pictures of police being taken – and the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, agreed.

Representatives from the National Union of Journalists and the National Association of Press Agencies recently met the federation to discuss the law, and better media-police relations.

More meetings with ministers and MPs are planned, with the aim to “overhaul” the new act.

Napa’s Paul Stewart, who attended the meeting, said he was stopped on Sunday night while on an assignment for a newspaper.

“We were held up for driving too slowly – we were going 15mph in a 20mph zone,” Stewart told Press Gazette.

“The road had speed bumps, it was midnight, and it was raining. We were held up as they ran a CRO (criminal record office) check. It was totally unnecessary.

“If I had gone down at 50mph, they would have pulled me up for that, as well.”

On the legislation, he said: “Both the press and the Metropolitan Police Federation are against the provisions that have been brought in by the Government.

“This legislation, in common with a lot of legislation brought in by this Government – which is strange given the number of barristers and lawyers in the party – has been so badly drawn-up.

“It’s early days, but we’ve held a preliminary meeting to discuss ways forward. A number of meetings are planned with Government, with MPs, although we can’t say too much.

“Obviously, it’s poorly-drawn legislation. We hope to get it overhauled.”

Section 76 of the 2008 Counter Terrorism Act means “eliciting, publishing or communicating information on members of the armed forces, intelligence services and police officers which is likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism” carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Peter Smyth said his organisation “shares the concerns of press and other professional photographers”.

“Good relationships between the police and media benefit everyone, including the public – which both sides exist to serve,” he added.

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