Photographers protest against Section 76
Mass protest outside Scotland Yard.
(© urban75, 16th Feb 2009)
We've already commented about how photographers rights in the UK are rapidly being eroded by aggressive cops, but things look set to take a turn for the worse with the introduction of section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008.
From now on, you could be arrested for taking and publishing a photograph of someone who works for the police force, the intelligence services or the armed forces.
This is clearly deeply worrying news for both photojournalists covering political dissent, and for the protesters themselves who inevitably end up capturing photos of police officers while documenting street protests.
Indeed, the National Union of Journalists and the British Press Photographers' Association have gone on record saying that the law would extend powers that are already being used to harass photographers and would threaten press freedom.
Terror legislation has increasingly been used by the government to criminalise and harass both protesters and photo-journalists - some of whom have played an important part in capturing heavy-handed or illegal police activity.
The new set of rules, under section 76 of the 2008 Act and section 58A of the 2000 Act, will target anyone who 'elicits or attempts to elicit information about (members of armed forces) ... which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism'.
A person found guilty of this offence could be liable to imprisonment for up to 10 years, and to a fine.
In other words, you could be arrested for taking and publishing a picture of a cop if the police decide that it is "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism."
If charged, the onus would be on you to prove that you had a 'reasonable excuse' to take the picture in the first place.
Anyone who has covered political protest in the past will know that it's not unusual for the police to use the law ('obstruction' is a favourite) to get protesters out of the way.
The gloriously fuzzy wording of the section 76 hands police officers powers to arbitrarily arrest photographers may be capturing scenes the police wouldn't like to seen by others.
The new legislation adds to the equally vague section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which has already been used against photographers doing their job.
Section 76: Taking photos of Police to be a crime under terrorist legislation
» 'I'm a Photographer ...not a Terrorist'
» BJP feature
» Counter Terrorism Act 2008
» Documenting dissent is under attack
» Photographers fear they are target of new terror law
» UK Photographers Rights
» Photographers Rights and Rights On Arrest
» Press Gazette
» London Paper
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