It looks like all the negative news stories about photographers’ rights in the UK is finally causing some positive change — private security guards across the nation are being instructed (for the first time) to exercise some common sense when stopping and questioning picture-takers:
Detective Sergeant David Parkes, a counter-terrorism advisor at the Metropolitan Police, has instructed private security staff to consider why a terrorist planning an attack would openly take photos in locations that can be readily viewed on the internet.
‘Why would a terrorist put himself at risk of being caught if he can get [the image] by logging onto Google,’ said DS Parkes […]
[…] Parkes replied that the type of equipment is of ‘no significance’ to the risk a person may be planning a terrorist attack, adding that he believed ‘the bigger the camera, the less likely they are going to do anything [suspicious] with it’.
German satire program Extra 3 conducted a humorous — albeit disconcerting — experiment testing photographers’ (and videographers) rights in Germany. They had an actor use a camera at different “sensitive” government locations, doing the exact same things (e.g. film the locations of security cameras) but dressed in two different outfits — first as a European tourist and then as a Middle Eastern man. The result shows that how law enforcement deals with cameras is largely determined by common prejudices.
When PetaPixel reader David Anderson opened up the April 2011 edition of Shutterbug magazine, he was shocked to find a terrorist in one of the advertisements. Someone should alert the TSA to this, since they published a poster warning us of this type of terrorist back in 2010.
Quick, does anyone recognize the back of this guy’s head? Oh wait, this guy might.
It’s interesting (though some might say infuriating) to see how photographers are depicted in some police training videos. Lesson learned? Don’t carry camera gear and sleeping bags together in the back seat of your car.
In case the video doesn’t start at the right place automatically, photography-related stuff starts around 4:30.
Photography rights advocate Carlos Miller came across the above poster recently put out by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Apparently the administration doesn’t know that there’s a huge number of non-terrorist photographers who enjoy doing something called aviation photography.
NewsARSE has a pretty funny satirical piece poking fun at the photographers’ rights situation in the UK:
Police forces have been taking an extremely tough stance against any members of the public wishing to take photographs of public buildings and public places, leaving many would-be terrorists unhappy at the implication they are also photographers.
As one member of a Coventry-based Al Qaeda cell explained to us, “I resent being treated like I’m some sort of photographer. The officer who stopped me had absolutely no evidence that mere photography was my intention, so what right did he have to detain me and delete my photographs.”
More good news for photographers in the UK. A week after UK’s terror tsar called for the abolition of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, UK’s Crime Minister David Hanson has new statements assuring photographers that anti-terrorism legislation should not be used to hinder photography. He is quoted as saying,
I recently met with Austin Mitchell MP, members of the Parliamentary All Party Photography Group and representatives of the photographic press and the Royal Photographic Society to discuss the issue of counter terrorism powers and offences in relation to photography.
I welcomed the opportunity to reassure all those concerned with this issue that we have no intention of Section 44 or Section 58A being used to stop ordinary people taking photos or to curtail legitimate journalistic activity.
Guidance has been provided to all police forces advising that these powers and offences should not be used to stop innocent member of the public, tourists or responsible journalists from taking photographs.
These powers and offences are intended to help protect the public and those on the front line of our counter terrorism operations from terrorist attack. For the 58A offence to be committed, the information is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.
I have committed to writing to Austin Mitchell MP to reinforce this message and to follow-up on the representations made.
Indeed, news of photographers being stopped unreasonably has died down in recent weeks, so it seems as though things are becoming more photographer-friendly in the UK. If you’re in the UK, have you noticed any improvement?
Lord Carlile, the official reviewer of terrorism legislation in the UK, has begun calling for the abolition of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The controversial stop and search law that allows police to search individuals without having reasonable suspicion has become the bane of many street photographers, who are often ordered to stop shooting and are detained when uncooperative.
In January, over 2,000 photographers gathered in Trafalgar Square in London to protest Section 44, and apparently the negative publicity has gotten the attention of the government. The London evening standard reported yesterday that Carlile has begun calling for the act to be repealed:
Lord Carlile of Berriew said the use of Section 44 powers was having a “disproportionately bad effect on community relations” and had become “counter-productive” in the fight against terrorism.
He also revealed that not a single arrest for terrorism offences and only “morsels” of intelligence had resulted from more than 200,000 such searches carried out last year — 151,000 in the Metropolitan Police area alone.
He suggests that the new law should allow searches without reasonable suspicion to be carried out only during terrorist events or around a small number of sites critical to the countries infrastructure.
What we found interesting was the following quote:
Nothing fills my in-tray and in-box more than complaints on the use of Section 44.