Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The price of freedom

I was going to post about 'Converge' which was a great success and a defining moment for the industry in my mind, I'm still crafting(if that is quite the word) that post right now

But I have more pressing matters to share with you

There has been a great deal written in the media of late regarding stills photographers being prevented from taking pictures in public places, sometimes even arrested, under section 44 of the 2000 Terrorism act.

I always thought this was a daft law which would not be an issue for any length of time, as surely common sense would prevail in this fine nation of ours

Notably a campaign was launched to fight for photographer rights

I'm a photographer not a terrorist

The Daily Mail ran a very good article which pointed out the absurdities of the law

People arrested for photographing park benches, chip shops, that kind of thing.

I was hoping that once it hit the mainstream and beyond the realms of whinging photographers (and god knows we do!) that politicians and the Police would sit up and take notice and that common sense would prevail

I was disappointed to see the Met Police's ham fisted wrong headed response to this

Which is why I'm blogging about this

They could have said 'this is something we are looking into'

What they in fact did was to release this to the media

This is their justification for stopping ordinary photographers taking pictures

My friend Jeff Overs of the BBC was prevented from photographing St Paul's Cathedral

Yes, these guys do seem like they were up to no good, no doubt but lest be clear about this, they were never convicted of this, or any terrorism offence

As the report says

'Two men were subsequently convicted of a huge mobile phone and luxury goods fraud scam and deported after serving prison sentences'

And goes on to say...

'The police said the CPS had decided there was sufficient evidence to bring terrorism charges, but it was not in the public interest because they would have received the same sentence as for fraud'

Am I alone in finding this lacks any credibility?

I think these are weasel words

If they are terrorists they should be prosecuted as such

No matter how difficult the prosecution


If they were terrorist why on earth did the authorities let them out 'back into the wild' ?

Now before anyone gets in touch and talk about danger to the public I have been on the receiving end of a terrorist bomb which killed 2 people, one of whom i knew to say 'hello' to in the mornings when I bought a magazine or newspaper from his store

A terrifying event with awful consequences

The real issue here is the authorities getting better perspective on this, the real issue is not that people are taking photos, but their intent.

Surely sleeper terrorist cells would go about there work in a more discreet manner? Or what about google earth?

If photography is such a danger it should be banned immediately.

Straight away tourists should be prevented from taking photos of Buckingham place, the houses of Parliament and Big Ben, along with photos of their kids at play on the beach (it could be a target, couldn't it?) and yes, those fiends taking photos of chip shops

Democracy and freedom is not worth one jot if we cannot live and go about our daily lives, in fact this means the terrorists have in fact won,for they have changed what we do.

I urge any of you write an email registering your objection to the home secretary Alan Johnson here

I already have.

He seems like a decent bloke, you never know he may even listen?

It will take you a few seconds and will help make this country, a happier free place to live


skink74 said...

The notable thing about the released footage is that is was taken on a phone, while people were walking about. Which it seems to me is what someone surreptitiously undertaking "hostile reconnaisance" is likely to do.
Whereas the photographers being harassed by the police are standing around conspicuously with large SLRs and tripods, drawing attention to themselves. Which seems like the sort of thing terrorists are unlikely to do.
It's just the police hastily trying to justify their ridiculous behaviour, and as per usual making a hash of it, instead of admitting they are at fault.

Drew Gardner said...

Good point well made.

And since when were bbc stills photographers terroist scouts?

For the record Jeff is not an antagonstic sort of guy, quite the contrary, and he would have tried to smooth this over

Do please send an email to the home secretary via the link I included.

We have to stand up for ourselves on this



Andy said...

I just can't believe it - this is insane!
And yet it is sad too - such an idiotic law... :-(
So if I'd visit London nowadays as a tourist and wanna take some nice shots (i mean pictures of course please! lol) - for example of the Tower, i'd be - what, executed inside, chop off my head maybe?
How many trials to come with the oncoming Olympic games?

Especially ridiculous from police not even having sidearm by default :-)

Drew Gardner said...

I agree Andy it is bonkers!

Mind you I don't think it is such a good idea to arm all the cops if they can't tell the difference between a terrorist and a BBC photographer!

Please do eamil Alan Johnson

We have to DO something!



Cati said...

Luckily for me I live in Spain but I agree this won't be a good thing for turists.
First of all, I agree with the above commenter saying that if I were to make up an evil plan I would try to do it as undercover as I could, not out in the open drawing all the attention that tripods, lighting gear, DSLRs and large lenses mean. Then, as a police officer you have to explain why would you think that if I'm photographing a bench I'm obviously thinking about hiding a bomb under it - don't know about England, but in Spain our Constitution presumes innocence first of all. That kind of things make the Police look like a bunch of retards who think that terrorists are even more retarded. Even my 10 y.o. cousin can tell the difference between a normal guy taking some pics (even with some extra gear he hasn't seen before) and a guy he soulnd't trust.
I hope they change that attitude with the oncoming Olympics because if they don't they're gonna have a work overload with all those cameras in town. And a lot of unhappy people around too. And bad press.

Drew Gardner said...

Dear Cati

Thank you for leaving a comment, it is always good to get a perspective from outside the UK and from Spain particularly as terrorism has been part of your nations recent history with ETA and the awful Madrid bombing.

You make a very good point when you say it make the Police look stupid, for it surely does and ultimately damages their credibility in the eyes of the public.

With the Olympics on the horizon, what view will it give the whole world if we behave in this ridiculous manner.

I know you are not a British citizen but I would urge you to write an email to Alan Johnson from the link on my blog, to give him your perspective as a would be traveler to the UK.

Thank you


Cati said...

I already have done so because I know they won't want that bad press with the Olympic games on sight. I specially insisted on the bad press this gives because I know that's gonna hurt ;-)

You're right with terrorism. It's funny how here things are so different. In Spain you just can't photograph police officers, vehicles and buildings and politics, even considering ETA has been present in our history for quite some time now (for about 40 years now). We're just not that paranoid about it.

Thanks for bringing this issue to our attention, Drew.

Drew Gardner said...

Hi Cati

Did you mean 'can' photograph not 'can't' photograph police in spain?

It did not seem to fit with your message.

Well done for sending an email to Alan Johnson



Cati said...

I meant you can't take pictures of police officers (because they are main ETA targets and they do not want to be identified, perfectly understandable), politics, police vehicles and police/military buildings. Those are normal restrictions, but you can take pics of monuments and such without a problem. Otherwise the limitations are the usual - you are supposed to ask permission to take a picture of somebody in the street and such, but usually people won't notice or care if you do unless it's a child.
Sorry if I was unclear :)

Paulo Rodrigues said...

If you watch the terrorist surveillance footage it is quite incredible, I can quite understand what a serious threat to national security these guys are.

The first 10 seconds of footage are of the terrorists finger obscuring a train.

The next few seconds is of a tube map. Obviously a tube map is of enormous value to terrorists planning an attack and you can see why they would go to great lengths to get video footage of one.

Next we get footage of the terrorist's chest and face as he walks down a tunnel.

Then some turnstyles followed by some closeups of a Billy Elliot poster in a lift. Cleary they were considering perpetrating some tap based attrocity on the underground.

A video of of some guys backside on an escalator, possibly checking out whether he is one of his alloted virgins following a martyr operation.

Then finally some stock footage of Liverpool Street station of the kind that you would see rolled out on the news every time there is a story about the rail service.

A clear and present danger.

This is like the dodgy dossier clearly they think the public are idiots, sadly lots of people will fall for this crap.

David Getsfrid said...

Although we're lucky over here in the states not to have such a broadly worded terrorist act under which police can prosecute photographers, we do have a lot of people (including those of authority such as police) who think they can ban photography under "Homeland Security."

There is a fantastic blog over at absolutely packed with cases all over the world (though mostly focused on the US and UK) of photographer harassment.

It's absolutely insane that people are frightened over stuff like this when, as many people have already said, any terrorist isn't going to be walking around with a giant fast lens and a tripod. They're either going to be shooting with a phone, or, more likely, just going to walk in with a bomb, and not risk getting caught "planning."

Although there are hundreds of these videos out there, I'll leave this one here: as a sample case from California. Absolutely ridiculous.

-David Getsfrid

Andy said...

I've just sent a mail to the secretary - will see the answer (if any).
Actually I'm a bit confused on what to say to my uncle and aunt - they are on to visit London the coming spring and sure they want to take some pic of public buildings.
(Who not?)

Drew Gardner said...

It is great that so many people have left supportive and insightful comments about this

I believe we can just go quietly and let our society slide into something akin to the former Eastern Block

Or we can do something

So lets all write that email to Alan Johnson

Probably best not let your relatives take their camera to London in the spring

You don't want to be visiting them in prison

Perhaps our fine government should have huge posters at Heathrow airport telling people that photography of tourist locations is forbidden, and leave huge bins for travellers to deposit their cameras?

That way we could all walk the streets safe in the knowledge that there would be no longer risk of terrorism.