Photographers react against new anti-terror legislation

Oscar Webb
22 April 2011

The London based campaign group I'm a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! today announced a flash mob on London City Hall to take place on Tuesday 3rd May as part of International Press Freedom Day.

The event will begin at 12.30 outside City Hall. The intention is to photograph the landmark en masse in protest against what the campaign says are "unnecessary and draconian restrictions against individuals taking photographs in public spaces"

The group has widespread support from journalists and from the general public. Marc Vallée, one of the organizers of the campaign, announced the flash mob two weeks ago at the National Union of Journalist's Delegate Meeting, whose delegates gave it their full support. The NUJ now officially support the action. The group has over 29,000 followers on Facebook.

I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! campaigns against police powers of stop and search and arrest - granted under sections 44-47 and more recently 47A of the Terrorism Act - and the effect these laws have on restricting photography in public places.

In 2009, of 100,000 people searched, under section 44, none were charged with terrorism related offences. The huge ineffectualness and intrusiveness of powers given to police under the Terrorism Act has caused photographers to act.

Section 44 was ruled illegal by the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 for contravening Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However on the 17th March the police were given new powers to stop and search under section 47A of the Terrorism Act. Under the new law a constable in uniform has the power to stop a pedestrian, in a specified area and search them and their possessions for evidence relating to terrorism. A constable may use these powers, reads section 47A, ‘whether or not’ they suspect there is evidence of terrorism. These powers have the potential to significantly limit what photographers can report.

A further concern of the I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! campaign is the privatisation of public space and the implications this has for photography. The result of the privatisation of areas such as Canary Warf and the Thames Walk is that private security guards are attempting to stop photos being taken altogether in these areas. Many activists believe the police encourage private security guards to undertake this role.

Marc Vallee told NUJ delegates that the restrictions placed on photographers by the Terrorism Act and the privatisation of public space were an "affront to democracy".

“The idea of the flash mob is to turn up at City Hall and to photograph this iconic building. The area along the Southbank, outside City Hall has been privatised and there are restrictions as to what you can and can’t do and photography is one of them." Said Vallee.

You can follow I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! On Twitter - #PHNAT

Oscar is a student, photographer and writer. He blogs here.


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