NUJ supports photographer arrested for covering protest

  • 05 Feb 2021

The NUJ is legally backing a photographer who was arrested, kept in a cell for seven hours and had journalistic materials confiscated after covering a protest at an asylum centre in Folkestone, Kent last week.

Police seized the memory card from Andy Aitchison's camera and his mobile phone. The freelance photographer had received a tip off about a demonstration planned for outside Napier Barracks, where asylum seekers are housed. When the police called at his home, he made it clear he had been there as a journalist and showed his press card.

Natasha Hirst, chair of the NUJ's Photographers' Council, said:

"This case has caused considerable concern and outrage amongst photographers. It is clear that Andy Aitchison was working as a photographer and was not part of the protest, undertaking the type of work that many journalists do on a regular basis.
“His arrest and the seizure of material will alarm not just journalists but anyone who values independent coverage and scrutiny of those in power. It is vital that our members have the right to cover protests and publish their images without the fear of arrest censoring how they go about their work."

Andy Aitchison, who was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and released on bail until 22 February, said:

"Being an NUJ member has been completely invaluable in my hour of need, I will be more confident in my future work as I now know that when problems arise the NUJ has been there to support me through it. Every working photographer out on the streets should have them as a backup team."

Damian Collins MP for Folkstone and Hyde said he was hoping to take up the case with the Home Secretary in the House of Commons on Monday. The arrest was raised with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden by Labour MP Kim Johnson.

The Culture Secretary said:

"Freedom of expression is one of our cherished liberties that we have fought through and members of this house for generations have defended and I fully intend to continue to promote freedom of expression. As part of that we will be publishing the plan for the protection of journalists and that will be coming forward shortly."

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