NUJ wins settlement for photographers at Black Lives Matter protest

  • 27 Mar 2024

The union won an apology and out-of-court settlements for two photographers and a video journalist who were detained while covering a Black Lives Matter solidarity protest for Eric Garner at Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush, London, on December 10, 2014.

In order to escape being confined with the protesters at the shopping centre, the three were filmed by the police showing their press cards and were then told to leave the area, preventing them from reporting on the subsequent arrests of 76 protesters.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) conceded this should not have happened and that the police and media guidelines agreed with the NUJ, British Press Photographers and Chartered Institute of Journalists had not been properly followed.

The MPS also accepted the three NUJ members had felt that they were being “subjected to state surveillance for reporting on political protest” and said it “recognised that journalists play an important role as a public watchdog and that freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society” and that they would “value continuing discussions with the NUJ to update the police and media guidelines” in the spirit that they “hope to ensure that incidents such as this will not occur again”.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“While we are pleased this has been resolved and the police have apologised, the fact that it has taken so long to get to this stage is wholly unacceptable. Journalists must be allowed to do their job without any police interference and without their safety being compromised. The NUJ will continue to make this abundantly clear to the Metropolitan Police Service and other forces, and will carry on representing and supporting members who have been treated unfairly.”

Jason N. Parkinson, video journalist, said:

“I welcome the out of court settlement and public apology from the MPS. However, this case has taken more than nine years to conclude. We repeatedly requested all the footage of the police evidence gatherers and bodycams from that night and yet none was ever released.

“This apology is nothing that we have not heard many times before, the same words and the same assurances. Yet we have seen more journalists arrested while doing their jobs in the past year than I have witnessed in my entire 20-year career.

“I want to thank Bindmans solicitors and the National Union of Journalists for their persistence in this case. It should also always be reminded that without the Human Rights Act these defences of journalists’ rights to report such events without fear of intimidation, detention or violence would not be possible. If we lose the HRA the situation for journalists in the UK will become much worse.”

Jess Hurd, photographer, said:

“We will not have access to justice until the police are accountable for their actions. This means not losing key evidence. While I welcome the apology from the Metropolitan police, it reads just the same as all other apologies. Journalists should be able to work without fear of violence and targeting by the police.”

Eric Garner died following a New York police officer using an unlawful chokehold on him, which was captured on footage. The event became a cause célèbre and sparked BLM marches worldwide after Garner was heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe”.

Jason N. Parkinson and Jess Hurd are also currently part of a legal action against the MPS for holding surveillance files on them on the Domestic Extremism database.

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