UPDATE: A High Court judge gave permission for Segalov’s case to go to judicial review against the police at a hearing on Wednesday.
A journalist is challenging a police decision to deny him accreditation to last year’s Labour Party conference in Brighton because they deemed him an “extreme left-wing activist”.
Michael Segalov has said Sussex Police and Greater Manchester Police’s decision-making processes were an “affront to press freedom”.
Segalov, who is news editor at Huck Magazine and has written for the Guardian, the Independent and Vice, is seeking a judicial review against both forces who barred him from the conference in September last year.
He told Press Gazette he assumed there would be no issue with him attending because he is a member of the National Union of Journalists, has reported from previous party conferences and has no criminal record.
Segalov applied months in advance to attend Labour conference, but was eventually told just three days before it started that he had been denied accreditation and that he could only find out the reasons for this decision by carrying out a subject access request, which takes up to 40 days.
Eventually he discovered that the police had labelled him an “extreme left-wing activist” for his work reporting on activists who had let bugs loose at a burger restaurant in London in response to immigration raids at the chain, saying his presence indicated he was “involved”.
Another reason he said was used to refuse him accreditation was that, when he was a student at Sussex University in 2013, he was involved in peaceful protesting against the “privatisation” of university services.
Segalov said: “It’s a long and arduous process taking action like this and it’s action which should never have had to be taken in the first place.
“What the police have done in this instance is an affront to press freedom and it is extremely distressing to be labelled as an extremist.”
He added: “The process the police have used to decide who is and isn’t allowed to attend party political conferences has been done in secret, behind closed doors with no opportunity for those affected by it to understand the basis of decisions being made and able to appeal them.
“That is an incredibly unfair process and one that must be challenged.”
A permission hearing will be held at the High Court on Wednesday to decide if the case can go to a judicial review against Sussex Police, the local force at the conference, and Greater Manchester Police, which manages the national accreditation team.
Ravi Naik from ITN Solicitors, who is acting for Segalov alongside Jude Bunting of Doughty Street Chambers, told Press Gazette: “Our view is that the claim is of genuine importance to journalists across the country.
“The current policy permits police forces to restrict access to political conferences to journalists in an unfair way and in complete secrecy.
“It allows arbitrary and unfair decision-making because the decisions are made without representations from the individual concerned and on the basis of representations that our client believes are completely unfair and biased against him.”
Naik added that there are two aspects to the case, of wider and narrower concerns. He said the case is “important to all journalists” because the policy is “unfair” and should not be allowed to stand.
“Michael’s really taking a stand for all journalists,” Naik said.
Segalov is also seeking financial redress because he was unable to work at the party conference.
A Sussex Police spokesperson confirmed the force is contesting the application for a judicial review, and said it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.
Greater Manchester Police said it was unable to comment due to legal proceedings.