Security minister grilled on police treatment of journalists

Policing minister Vernon Coaker was grilled yesterday by a parliamentary committee looking into the G20 protests and police relations with the media.

The joint committee on human rights raised concerns about how the police handled the demonstrations in London on 1 April.

They asked Coaker whether the Metropolitan Police press team had over-stated the potential for violence and disruption – thereby encouraging journalists to take that line.

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In a protacted reply, Coaker said: “This does demonstrate the importance of context, we’re all politicians, we’ve all said things that if you actually put it in one way you get one thing and if you put it in the other you get the completely opposite.”

He added: “They was reporting about the police saying about storming, and then actually when the transcripts were checked, there was no use of the word storming at all.

“I don’t think the media people deliberately go out to stoke things up but I do think they have to be aware that sometimes a word out of place can cause an awful lot of problems.”

Coaker was also asked by the committee about the effect anti-terror law was having on the press. Some photographers have complained that Section 76 of the 2008 Counter-Terrorism Act prevents them taking pictures of police.

He replied: “You can take pictures of police officers, you can take pictures of uniformed personnel, there is nothing in law that says you can’t do that.

“Frankly you can see it everyday outside parliament, people stood next to police officers, posing for photographs. So, y’know, there is nothing in law that says that.

“There are occasions when people are prevented from taking a photograph, and you kind of think: why are you being prevented from taking a photograph in this way?

“We know the intent of the legislature was the prevention of taking photographs of military personnel or police officers in a way which was about how to prepare for terrorist acts and it certainly shouldn’t be used for routine prevention of the taking of photos.”



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