The Post’s story said police forced its journalists to leave the meeting
A furious row has erupted between the Bristol Evening Post and Avon and Somerset Police after the paper claimed a reporter and photographer were forced by police to leave a public meeting called to discuss rising crime.
The alleged incident provoked a blistering leader in the Post, which branded the police’s behaviour as "a disgrace" and demanded an apology from the force. But Avon Police flatly denied that the journalists were thrown out of the meeting.
Ironically, the row erupted the day after the Post launched a joint campaign with police to cut street crime.
Rebecca Camber and photographer James Sandercock claim they were ejected after a member of the public objected to being photographed.
Earlier, there had been applause when Sandercock told those attending the public meeting at the Sea Mills Community Centre that he was from the Evening Post, the two claimed.
Shortly afterwards, a resident requested that she not be photographed and the Post journalists claim a policewoman asked them to leave. Camber said that when she pointed out it was a public meeting and that the press were entitled to be there, she and Sandercock were still asked to leave.
The Post journalists said a police sergeant then stepped in and claimed there had been four or five complaints from residents and added: "Either you leave now or we’ll take you out."
But the police said in a statement: "We had no objection to the Evening Post being at the meeting – they had been invited. But it was clear that several members of the public and two representatives on the top table, a social services manager and a housing manager, did not want to be photographed.
"It is disappointing that despite repeated requests to the photographer not to photograph these people, this was ignored. A police officer advised the photographer that this could lead to a breach of the peace and asked him to stop. At no time were the journalists asked to leave the meeting. Both officers categorically refute that they asked the journalists to leave the meeting or made any suggestion that they would be forced to leave."
In its leader, the Post said: "We have no reason to lie. But we have every reason to be both angry and concerned at the behaviour of the police. Rather than the police trying to oust us, they should have explained to anybody who complained that we had a legitimate right to be there.
"We certainly don’t need and will not tolerate police who have precious little understanding of journalism trying to censor our work.
"Meanwhile, we look forward to receiving an apology from the police force on behalf of their officers and also an assurance that the concept of democracy has been carefully explained to them."
By Jon Slattery