NUJ council joins concerns of press photographers over exclusion to historic events
© Andrew Parsons' picture released by Downing Street of the Prime Minister
7 February 2020
The NUJ’s Photographers’ Council has joined colleagues in condemning Downing Street’s attempts to control images of major state events, by excluding press photographers and issuing state-approved photographs of the Prime Minister.
Natasha Hirst, chair of the council, said:
"Picture editors have rightly responded to protest the deeply alarming decision of Number 10 to exclude photographers from key historic moments such as the UK leaving the EU. This was swiftly followed by refusing certain journalists’ access to political briefings.
“It isn't simply a case of editors wanting a variety of photographs to choose from, nor to obtain images of 'unguarded' moments. Independent photographic coverage of the Prime Minister's public activities serves a necessary democratic function, and this incident is the latest of a number of attempts by Number 10 to evade scrutiny and control the public image of the Prime Minister.
“The entire media industry must make a stand against such blatant and dangerous attempts to curtail press freedom. Staged PR images will further erode transparency and public trust. This strategy of choosing what emerges into the public domain must be halted."
Two photographers are usually selected on rota basis to attend such historic moments, one from national or regional newspapers via the News Media Association and one from an agency via the Wire Photo Association, pooling content for other publications. But instead, photographs have been taken by Andrew Parsons, Boris Johnson’s official photographer, who was put on the public payroll as special adviser to the Prime Minister.
Helen Healy, picture editor at the FT, told Press Gazette said she was concerned about a diminished level of access to Johnson as a public servant, and about the possibility that officials can vet Parsons’ images before they are sent out.