Journalists working on controversial stories have been placed on a “domestic extremist database”, the National Union of Journalists has warned.
The secret surveillance was revealed at a Trades Union Conference sponsored national day of action against blacklisting.
Comedian Mark Thomas said he made a subject access request for information held on him by the Metropolitan Police under the Data Protection Act.
He said the police held a file of seven pages containing more than 60 individual items of intelligence. As a result, he said he was taking legal action to remove his name from the domestic extremist database.
“The result is a bizarre list of events monitored by the police, lectures given, panels attended, even petitions I have supported. One entry notes my presence at an anti-war demo, describing what I am wearing and what sort of bike I am riding, the police continue, ‘he said hello to us as he passed and seemed very happy.’
“This chatty tone noting my emotional wellbeing on their database is wonderfully odd in an Ealing Comedy meets the Stasi sort of way and has all the reassurance of a stalkers smile, but does make for bewildering reading.”
— Mark DJD Martin (@djdaddums) November 20, 2013
However, Thomas claimed when he looked into files on his journalism work, things became far more sinister.
He said some of the work he conducted on behalf of Channel 4 and the New Statesman has landed him on the domestic extremist database.
He warned journalists: “I apologise for the boastful tone but the police have monitored public interest investigations in my case since 1999. More importantly if the police are keeping tabs on a lightweight like myself then they are doing the same and more to others. This is more than supposition as I know of other NUJ members on the database.
“Which is why I am asking NUJ members to take action. If your work brings you into contact with the police whether covering riots or climate camp, from Plebgate to the NSA, then the police could have you on their database.”
Thomas said filling in the form takes ten minutes andthe Metropolitan Police should reply to you within 40 days.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “As well as Mark, we are aware of some other journalists who are on the domestic extremism database – an initiative ran by the same unit responsible for the use of dead babies' identities by its undercover officers, and for police forming relationships with the female protestors they were monitoring. Given that the police have admitted monitoring nearly 9,000 individuals it is likely other NUJ members will be on the list.
“The NUJ is supporting Mark in a legal challenge to challenge this police policy and to demand the deletion of files held on journalists, and we want as many other members as possible to find out what information the Met is holding.”
The NUJ has prepared a template letter for journalists to use if they wish to apply under the Data Protection Act for information held on them.