NUJ members receive apology and compensation from police
25 June 2010
Two NUJ members have received an apology and damages from the Metropolitan Police after being forcibly prevented from working by officers at a political protest outside the Greek Embassy in 2008.
Investigative photojournalist Marc Vallée and videographer Jason Parkinson received the following apology on Friday:
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has accepted liability for breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The MPS apologise for this and have paid compensation. The MPS confirms its recognition that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy and that journalists have a right to report freely. The MPS recognise that on 8 December 2008 they failed to respect press freedom in respect of Mr Vallée and Mr Parkinson.
The police have accepted liability for breaching Article 10 and made a payment of £3,500 compensation to each and are paying their legal costs.
Responding to the settlement, Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, said:
"Professional journalists and photographers have detailed numerous attempts by police officers to stifle the reporting of protests. Today we have achieved a significant victory – it is right that the police admit liability, apologise and compensate those whose basic human rights were breached in such a blatant and aggressive manner.
"The police need to quickly learn the lessons of these shameful events, recognise the importance of media freedom and take the necessary steps to recognise the press card during police training to ensure it doesn't happen again. The result is a huge boost for media freedom and the rights of photographers".
On the day of the protest armed officer from the Metropolitan police's diplomatic protection group pulled Marc Vallée's camera away from his face and covered the lens of Jason Parkinson's video camera whilst stating "you cannot film me."
Roy Mincoff, NUJ Legal Officer, said:
"The police need to learn that journalists and photographers have a right to report and photograph as recognised by the European Court of Human Rights. The NUJ has held the police to account before and will do so again unless all officers at all ranks abide by the law."
Chez Cotton, Head of the Police Misconduct department at leading civil rights firm Bindmans LLP, said:
"It is of grave concern that an armed, diplomatic officer of the Metropolitan Police Force felt it was appropriate to call these journalists 'scum' and stop them from working and was happy to do so in full knowledge that he was being filmed.
"My clients were physically prevented from reporting on protest and political unrest of international importance. Just before he was frog marched by officers away from events, Mr Parkinson filmed an officer punching a protestor in the side of the head, although the protestor appears to be already under the control of several officers.
"The police appeared not to want these journalists to film what appeared to be extremely brutal arrests using force is a cause for further alarm.
"Further to this public acknowledgment that his officers have breached the fundamental right of journalists to report, and in light of wide ranging criticisms of how the press were stopped from reporting at G20 and other 'politically sensitive' events, it is very much hoped that the Commissioner will take immediate steps to ensure his officers act properly and support rather than obstruct the press in the important role they play in keeping the public informed, including of police wrong doing."
The pair were not disrupting police activity and had not had any contact with the police prior to the incident. They had complied with requests to leave the area but were forcibly removed and told to report from a distance.
The NUJ has thanked Bindmans for their vital support and assistance in the case.