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Hundreds demonstrate right to photograph in London

16 February 2009

Comedian Mark Thomas joined more than 300 photographers who gathered outside New Scotland Yard in London today to exercise their right to take a picture in a public place.

Amendments to the Counter Terrorism Act, which comes into force in the UK today, allow for the arrest and imprisonment of anyone who takes pictures of police officers, and some other public servants, "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism."

The NUJ fears that the law will be used to stop news photographers doing legitimate work.

Jess Hurd, a London-based freelance photographer, said:

"I think we have really stood up for journalism today. I've been stopped and detained under the old counter terrorism laws and this takes things even further."

Marc Vallée, another freelance photographer who helped organise today's event, said:

"This turnout shows that if a press photgrapher is arrested under the new law it will be a big news story. Hopefully that will make the police think carefully."

Mark Thomas said:

"This is a fantastic turnout. We put down a challenge on day one."

The comedian, who often uses his articles and TV shows to highlight injustice and wrongdoing, suggested that an exhibition should be held of pictures of police officers.

Peter Murray, NUJ vice-president, said:

"There is a threat of photographers being criminalised just for doing their jobs. Life is already hard enough for them. Photography budgets are being cut and so-called citizen journalists are being used instead of professionals.
"This is a further unnecessary threat to their livelihoods."

The Metropolitan Police Federation also oppose the new legislation.

NUJ members have organised a seminar called – 'I'm a photographer not a terrorist: know your rights' to be held on Thursday 26 February.

Tags: , photographers, demonstration, counter-terrorism act, anti-terrorism laws, press freedom, mark thomas, metropolitan police, police federation, freelance, i'm a photographer not a terrorist, jess hurd, marc vallée