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NUJ appeals against Dale Farm production order ruling

29 February 2012

The NUJ has submitted a legal appeal to challenge a production order forcing journalists, media organisations and broadcasters to submit all their footage to the police.

The appeal raises fundamental issues about the ability of the press to report matters of public interest impartially and without fear of intimidation, with reference to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The application is on behalf of NUJ member Jason N. Parkinson and the BBC, ITN, BskyB and Hardcash Productions have also submitted appeals.

The legal challenge is in response to a court decision, requiring those involved to comply with the production order and hand over all the footage gathered during the first two days of the Dale Farm eviction to Essex police.

The media footage broadcast included images of a police officer using a taser gun during the eviction.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary said:

"Journalists played a critical public interest role in reporting on Dale Farm, producing footage on the ground so the public were informed about exactly what was happening. Their reward is to be hounded and criminalised by the state simply for doing their job as journalists.
"The appeal launched by the NUJ will have significant implications for the whole of our industry and we are challenging this decision because the union's code of conduct compels the union – and our members - to defend a vital principle, the protection of journalistic sources and material.
"Our members regularly face attack and intimidation whilst doing their jobs. The danger increases if footage gathered whilst reporting events is seized and used by the police. This is an attack on press freedom and turns photographers, videographers and journalists into potential targets. Journalists are not there to carry out investigatory work for the police."

Video journalist Jason Parkinson said:

"The production order against me could have grave professional consequences and there is a danger it will have a serious impact on my ability to carry out my job in the future.
"I want to protect the integrity and impartiality of journalists on the frontline – journalists should not be forced to be evidence gatherers for the police. We are reporting in the public interest and there should be a clear distinction between police surveillance and the press."

Roy Mincoff, NUJ legal officer said:

"If the order for production is not overturned by judicial review, the future safety of reporters and photographers will be at risk. They will be seen merely as evidence gatherers for the police, with major consequences for their ability to report objectively and impartially in the future.
"The vital role of the media as the public watchdog, so important to a democratic society, would be seriously undermined."

John Domokos, video producer for Guardian.co.uk said:

"Jason has been a contributor of public order and unrest footage to The Guardian for many years. We are very concerned about this production order as we believe it will not only seriously jeopardise his safety and ability to cover future events of this nature, but also affect the safety and impartiality of all video journalists."

Motion agreed by NUJ BBC reps

This meeting of BBC NUJ MFoCs registers its deep concern at the actions of the police in seeking a production order to seize journalistic material gathered during the Dale Farm eviction. It expresses its full support to NUJ member Jason Parkinson in resisting attempts by the police to force journalists to surrender their material. It calls on the BBC to support all attempts by the NUJ and other broadcasters to fight this challenge, which has significant implications for press freedom and the ability of journalists to carry out their work professionally and safely.

NUJ London Freelance Branch statement

It is extraordinarily important journalists not be used to gather evidence in this way. The principle of protecting sources is vital if journalists are to work safely; nor can they be effective if their unused material is acquired by the police. We support the freelance journalists, BBC, Sky News and ITN in this important stand for press freedom.

Statement by ITN Chief Executive Officer, John Hardie.

Tags: , dale farm, photographers, broadcasting, production order, jason parkinson, bbc, itn, bskyb, hardcash productions, european convention on human rights