Journalists’ arrests at Just Stop Oil protests threaten press freedom
The union has called for ‘immediate action’ and condemned arrests of three journalists by Hertforshire police.
Rich Felgate, Tom Bowles and Charlotte Lynch were arrested on 7 and 8 November while reporting from Just Stop Oil protests. Despite attempting to show his press card and explaining the reason for being present at the protest, Felgate was arrested and detained by police. Similarly, Lynch explained she showed the officers her press card but was handcuffed and detained for five hours. Officers in both incidents were from Hertforshire police, and the union has condemned their actions, failing to protect the rights of journalists.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:
“The NUJ is disappointed to hear of the breach of journalists' rights at recent Just Stop Oil protests. Film makers and photographers play an important role in relaying accurate information and quality journalism to members of the public. Journalists have every right to protect their sources and should not be pressured into revealing private communications."
Commenting on the most recent arrest, she said:
“Charlotte’s arrest and detention should never have happened. This is the second incident in as many days where the Hertfordshire police have threatened press freedom and disregarded the right of journalists to cover protests. No reporter or other bona-fide news gatherer should fear being placed in a cell for doing their job.
“We now call upon the National Police Chiefs’ Council to take immediate action to ensure this is prevented in future by all police forces who are overseeing the issues of public order associated with the Just Stop Oil protests being conducted on the M25 and elsewhere.
“A central, key aspect of this has to be initial identification of the status of such news gatherers on the basis of their holding of the UK Press Card Authority Press Card, as recognised by the National Police Chiefs’ Council itself.”
Following intervention from the NUJ, a statement from Hertfordshire constabulary said "Chief Constable Charlie Hall recognises the concerns over the recent arrests of journalists."
Mr Hall is today requesting an independent force to examine our approach to these arrests and to identify any learning we should take in managing these challenging situations.