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PSNI application a 'threat to press freedom'

10 December 2011

The chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has begun a legal application to have the BBC and UTV hand over video recordings of rioting in Derry. Following the announcement, the NUJ condemned the PSNI's attempts to force media organisations to supply footage to the police.

The NUJ said that it was appalled that the police are trying to get journalistic footage of news events as such moves place journalists at risk. Journalists are put in danger when forced to give evidence to the police. The union has offered support and assistance to individuals and continues to call on employers to do the same.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"Journalists play a critical role in informing the public and covering civil unrest is already difficult. Our members have been attacked whilst doing their jobs. The danger increases if the footage gathered whilst reporting events is seized and used by the police. It is an attack on press freedom and turns photographers, videographers and journalists into potential targets."

Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish Secretary, said:

"The NUJ has consistently resisted attempts to undermine the right of journalists to protect sources of information. It is regrettable that yet again the PSNI is embarking on a course of action which not only undermines that right but could put journalists in danger.
"Media workers are engaged in a professional activity which is independent of the security forces and they should never be seen as collectors of information for the police."

The NUJ code of conduct contains the following principle:

"Protects the identity of sources who supply information in confidence and material gathered in the course of her/his work."

The PSNI issued another court order for media footage of the riots in East Belfast in July 2011.

In September 2011, the NUJ condemned the English courts for forcing media organisations to supply riot footage and photographs to the police.

Tags: , psni, footage, broadcasting, production order, safety, derry