DM2023: relations with the police

  • 29 Apr 2023

Nigel Dickinson of the Photographers’ Council said some police officers still misunderstood the rights of journalists and photographers.

Delegates commended the excellent work conducted by the union to build relationships with the police, judiciary and the security industry, but called for urgent action to address continued problems encountered by reporters and photographers.

In particular conference expressed concern about the unacceptable arrests of those covering the Just Stop Oil protests. Proposing the motion,  Nigel Dickinson of the Photographers’ Council  said there was a continued lack of understanding by some police forces and their officers of the rights of journalists and photographers. There were numerous examples of members being obstructed and there was a need to widen engagement with police forces, he said.

Seconding the motion, senior organiser David Ayrton, said the issue should not be seen as separate from debates on the pay of journalists because it was about the capacity of members to earn a living without being harassed.

Under the terms of resolution, the union was instructed to re-engage with the National Police Chiefs Council and the College of Policing to further inform and educate police officers. It was further instructed to seek information from the NPCC and CoP and each police force to establish what guidance is available to officers in dealing with photographers at a crime scene and in public places generally.

Under the composite motion, chapels and branches are to be assisted to improve relationships with police. Existing work by the union had already resulted in the speedy resolution of problems and the development of new training procedures.

Conference noted the union’s participation in the Ministry of Justice’s media working group helping to draw up a Reporters' Charter applicable to all courts in England and Wales, setting out journalists’ rights to attendance, access to documents  and notice of proceedings. The union had also agreed guidelines with the Professional Security Association which were now widely adopted within the industry which aimed at removing points of conflict.

Following consultations with the union, the London Metropolitan Police had drawn up guidance which explains the rights of journalists. Discussions between Bristol branch and Avon and Somerset Police had improved the knowledge of officers on the role of journalists.

An amendment to the motion, calling for the use of the Freedom of Information Act to discover the attitude of police forces, was defeated. Delegates argued that it would ‘not be helpful’ to the relationship with the police and that the FoI should be kept as a back-up.

As part of DM’s examination of relations with other organisations, conference narrowly passed a resolution calling on the NEC to consult the membership about the union’s contact with Google. The NEC argued that the union’s contact with the organisation over training in particular was invaluable. But the motion, tabled by London Freelance Branch, said serious concerns had been raised by branches about the significant copyright, reputational and ethical damage the NUJ’s partnership with the organisation brought. The resolution said that any existing relationship with Google should be terminated if necessary.

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