Media ordered to hand over Belfast riots footage

The NUJ is urging news organisations to appeal against an order forcing them to hand over footage of last month’s riots in east Belfast.

Belfast Recorder Judge Thomas Burgess last week ordered media outlets to hand over footage of the riots, in which Press Association photographer Niall Carson was shot in the leg, to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), arguing the public interest in convicting those involved took precedence over the European Convention rights of media organisations.

NUJ Irish secretary Séamus Dooley is now urging those affected to appeal against the order, claiming media workers should be ‘allowed to act in an independent fashion and must not be perceived as agents of the police or any other organ of the state”.

‘If it is understood that photographers or video journalists will hand over footage they could be placed in an untenable situation,’claimed Dooley.

He also argued that the health and safety implications were ‘enormous and could have consequences for journalists covering demonstrations”.

“There is significant footage from these appalling riots already in the public domain and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the PSNI is engaged in a fishing expedition in this case,’he said.

According to the BBC, when applying for the order the PSNI claimed that, as well as the injuries suffered by Carson, a cameraman also narrowly escaped being shot during the riots.

The PSNI argued that any untelevised footage held by news outlets could help secure convictions including attempted murder, grievous bodily harm with intent.

Judge Burgess was quoted as saying that ‘in the balancing exercise I am asked to consider, what weight to I place on the risk attached to handing over unbroadcast material, in circumstances where the ‘risk’ has been assessed by those who have that material as such as allowed for the broadcasting of some of the material.”

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