Citizen's arrest

By Caitlin Pike and Jon Slattery

Broadcasters were this week accused of irresponsibly encouraging the
public to put themselves in danger to get news pictures in the wake of
the terror attacks on London.

The rise of the “citizen journalist” culminated in exclusive video
pictures of the surrender of Muktar Said Ibrahim and Ramzi Mohammed,
taken by a member of the public, being sold to ITV News and the Daily
Mail and used around the world.

In a letter to Press Gazette, the
Chartered Institute of Journalists highlights ITV, CNN and the BBC as
instigating a new trend in broadcasting that pushes the public to “go
out and get” pictures of breaking news.

The CIoJ says: “The use
in newspapers, and on television, of pictures by amateur photographers
who have coincidentally been at the scene of a major news story in the
past, has always been acceptable. However, attempts by television
channels to actively encourage their viewers to go out and get news
pictures and then transmit the results direct to them, are totally
unacceptable and border on the irresponsible.”

It claims: “These
TV companies deserve condemnation for their outrageous demands and
their disregard for the danger they may be subjecting their viewers to
in their attempt to obtain picture material.”

The CIoJ also says
the public are being exploited for their news pictures and criticises
CNN for “sheer effrontery” in expecting viewers to send it material
without payment and stating on its website: “You agree to indemnify,
defend and hold harmless CNN, its parent and affiliated companies, its
and their licensees, successors and assigns, and each of its and their
officers, agents and employees from all liabilities or losses,
including, without limitation, reasonable attorney’s fees.”

Nick Wrenn, managing editor of CNN International, said: “Like it or
not, phone cameras have become an important means of recording breaking
news, as the Boxing Day tsunami showed. Technology is driving big
changes in journalism. You don’t need a press pass to capture the news.
With any new media we are learning as we go along and I’m sure the way
mainstream news organisations work with this technology will develop
further. I strongly dispute that news organisations are being
irresponsible and it is worth noting that some of the pictures taken by
members of the public come to us unsolicited.”

Deborah Turness,
editor of ITV News, said: “It was an amazing scoop for ITV News. The
pictures were compelling. Without them, any coverage of that momentous
day would have been, quite simply, second class. That’s why Sky and the
BBC took them despite the large ‘exclusive’ bug that was added to
protect our exclusivity.”

London Tonight, ITV News’ regional news
for London, now has a database of viewers with picture phones. Editor
Stuart Thomas, of London Tonight, said: “We have received some great
footage from our viewers and it’s really added to our coverage of
certain stories, but London Tonight does not encourage people to ‘go
out and get’ pictures from the scene of breaking news stories. This
would clearly be irresponsible. We have a database of viewers with
picture phones and actively request pictures after an event.”

BBC said: “We strongly refute any suggestion that viewers are
encouraged to go out and get news pictures. The public have, for some
time now, been volunteering their material to the BBC, and we are quite
clear on the responsibilities that come with this process.

BBC aims for a royalty-free, non-exclusive licence. Furthermore, the
BBC underlines that copyright ownership of submitted material still
resides with the sender. The BBC is a public service organisation; we
do not syndicate for commercial gain.”

Arrest of bombing suspects


The “unique circumstances” surrounding the arrest of London
bombing suspects mean newspapers are not committing contempt of court
with headlines such as “Got the bastards”, which ran in The Sun on

This was the verdict of Sun legal manager Tom Crone. He was
responding to criticism from campaign group Liberty, which has argued
that coverage following the arrests of bombing suspects could prejudice
their trials.

In a letter to the Attorney General, Liberty
director Shami Chakrabarti said publishing pictures of the faces of
arrested men, calling them “bombers” and running extensive material
about their backgrounds could prejudice a fair trial and even lead to
trials being scrapped.

She also raised concern about publicising leaked admissions made by Osman Hussein – the suspect held by police in Italy.

said: “The current situation is unique in all sorts of ways. We are
aware of our duties and obligations under the contempt laws and are
conscious of our obligations in terms of public interest and keeping
people aware of potential danger.”

Another legal source pointed
out that the fact the men had yet to be charged, any trials are a long
way off and the unique level of public interest meant current reports
were unlikely to create “substantial risk of serious impediment or
prejudice” under the Contempt of Court Act.

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