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Olympics 2012 - advice and information for journalists

21 July 2012

The UK National Union of Journalists welcomes all nations and people to London as part of the Olympic games.

If you are a member of the NUJ and need advice during the games please email

For more information on the trades union agreements in place during the games visit the TUC's Olympic page.

If you are not a member of the NUJ but would like to join please email

The NUJ's London Photographer's Branch (LPB) and the national union have been assured that there will be no press freedom issues during the Olympics with security guards, police or the military.

The LPB have produced a know-your-rights guide that has been designed to help if things go wrong during the games.

The guide is a comprehensive briefing designed to assist and support photographers on the front line during the event.

The LPB have worked on providing information about:

  • Police powers
  • UK laws and legislation:
    • Stop & Search – Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act 1984
    • Terrorism Act 2000
    • Public Order Act
  • Arrests and unfair treatment. 

The LPB website also provides helpful contact details and further information.

Tips include:

  1. Remain calm, polite and reasonable at all times.
  2. Immediately confirm you are working as a journalist and show your press card - ACPO/Met police agreed Media Guidelines confirm that the police have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what journalists record.
  3. Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) the police have no power to seize journalistic material without a court order. Do not physically resist.
  4. Private Security have no additional rights other than that of an ordinary citizen on public property - except where they are Accredited Persons.
  5. You can be asked to leave whilst photographing on private property, you could be arrested and charged with the offence of trespass if you refuse.
  6. Try to film or record the conversation so that there is a record of an incident.
  7. Get witness names and contact details. Also badge numbers of police officers.

Read the detailed LPB guidance, information and support on their website, or download a PDF copy.

For more information, see the the guidelines for London Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) staff on dealing with reporters, photographers and news crews at incidents and the guidelines for reporters, photographers and news crews for dealing with police at incidents. Collectively, both sections are referred to as ACPO police and media guidance.

The NUJ code of conduct contains the principle of the protection of journalistic sources and materials.

Under the UK Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), a journalist is entitled not to voluntarily hand over journalistic material that the Police request and can require the Police to seek a Court Order from a Judge which should be on Notice.

"Journalistic material" means material acquired or created for the purpose of journalism, if it is in possession of a person who acquired or created it for the purposes of journalism.

Although PACE does not apply in Scotland, the same protections under the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights.

A journalist can similarly decline to hand over journalistic material under counter terrorism legislation.

The Police will in some instances seek to obtain material, such as photographs, video footage, notebooks and contact lists from journalists. Not only is it an accepted fundamental journalist ethic, but also is recognised in UK legislation and case law, and in the European Court of Human Rights that the Police should seek a Court Order if the journalist objects.

Issues may then arise as to Excluded Material, Special Procedure Material and for example, is the material likely to be of substantial value to the Police investigation, what other efforts have Police made to obtain the material, is the material confidential, is it necessary – and not just convenient or expedient - in the public interest for the Court to make an Order.

The European Convention on Human Rights, Article 10, Freedom of Expression is engaged. The European Court of Human Rights has recognised that "to be justified, any curtailment of freedom of expression must be convincingly established by a compelling countervailing consideration, and the means employed must be proportionate." (Reynolds v Times Newspapers).

"The press has a duty to impart information and ideas on all matters of public interest and the public has a corresponding right to receive that information… The press carries out its vital role of "Public Watchdog." (Observer & Guardian v UK).

"Otherwise, to the public disadvantage, legitimate inquiry, discussion and the 'safety valve' of investigative journalism…..would be discouraged and perhaps stifled." (R (Bright) v Central Criminal Court).

Article 2, Right to Life may also be engaged -
"There is also public interest in the press being able to go about the activity in safety." (R v Bristol Crown Court ex p Bristol Press Agency Ltd).

"The requisite review (by a Judge) should be carried out by a body separate from the Executive and other interested parties to determine whether a requirement in the public interest overriding the principle of protection of journalistic sources exists PRIOR to the handing over of the said material to prevent unnecessary access to information capable of disclosing the source's identity." (Sanoma Uitgevers BV v The Netherlands).


Contact the Emergency Legal Advice numbers below:


Thompsons: 0800 587 7530
Bindmans: 020 7833 4433

Please inform the NUJ Legal Department as soon as possible as any court hearing may be at very short notice. We can then contact you regarding further advice and representation.

Contact the NUJ Legal Department on 020 7843 3704 during normal office hours or email:

Accredited persons are given special status during the games and you can read about them as well as information about specific Olympic offences relating to advertising and trademarks.

A campaign, supported by the NUJ, to challenge the British Olympic Association's decision to deny accreditation to the Games for Britain's only black national newspaper won success.

The NUJ and Trade Union Congress (TUC) are also backing a campaign to improve worker's rights called Playfair 2012.

Playfair 2012 end of campaign survey: what difference have we made?

The London 2012 Olympics have provided a fantastic opportunity for the Playfair 2012 campaign to raise awareness about the often exploitative working conditions in the production of Olympic merchandise and sportswear, and to mobilise support for action to demand that the human rights of workers making these goods are respected.

Please take a few minutes to help us assess what impact we've had in raising awareness and in providing ways for you to influence major brands and the Olympic movement to respect workers' rights.

As you may be aware, Playfair 2012 signed a ground-breaking agreement with the organisers of London 2012 to take action to protect workers' rights, earlier this year. We are now working with Playfair Brazil in the run up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Rio Olympic Games so that progress made by London 2012, as a result of the Playfair 2012 campaign, is built on for future world sporting events.

Complete the survey.

Media professionals may find "A Journalist's Guide to London in 2012" useful, you can request a free copy by sending your name, position, organisation and address to

Tags: , Olympics, police, press freedom, black members, photographers, pace, european convention on human rights, human rights act