I wrote this article about Police arresting reporters in 2002
Breaking news by Paul O’ Connor,Undercurrents
Dressed only in a white paper suit and little else, documentary maker Ben Edwards blinked as the early sun rose over the police station in Plymouth. It was the end of his 24 hour stint in a small cell, his video camera and tapes were now in the hands of the police. Just another statistic in the growing number of journalists in Britain arrested on the line of duty.
Thomas said that “it seems that the arresting of journalists has been going on for a long time but newspaper and Tv editors rely so much on the police for tip offs that they don’t want to risk upsetting their prime source of news”
Despite all of the charges being dropped in court, he was suspended from his work as a special constable.
Television reporter Roddy Mansfield came up against the Metropolitan police while filming a protest against Rank leisure ltd. While he showed his NUJ press card he couldn’t remember his cards PIN. Mansfield was arrested for forgery of a press card. All the charges were later dropped, however all his news deadlines were missed and the story ended up on the edit suite floor. Since then he feels that he has been singled out for harassment by the police. He has been assaulted by riot police, had his camera smashed, been arrested 6 times and in May this year the Met. police actually erased his footage in front of him in the custody suite of Belgravia police station. However they didn’t figure on his camera picking up shots of their own feet and the microphone picking up their voices as they questioned him about him being a journalist. Mansfield sees it as his “first, real, hard piece of evidence of police news management”.
Photographer Nick Cobbing was one of the few journalists convicted and fined for obstruction of a bailiff despite the courts recognising him as a working reporter. He was arrested during the Manchester airport protests while working in the trees. While all the other journalists were corralled into the police controlled pen well away from the evictions,Cobbing managed to get into the trees and work where the news was happening. Cobbing is still in disbelief and he figures that the police have a covert plan “As the Police come under a lot of criticism for the policing methods, they want to put journalists off going to these events and the easiest journalists to put off are the freelances because they do not have the backing of the large news organisation.”
Another casualty at Manchester was HTV producer John Williams who was trunchoned over the head and dragged away from the protest site.
Watch the film Breaking News which shows these arrests here.
Sally Gilbert, lawyer of the National Union of Journalists ( NUJ ) stated that “this law was intended mainly to protect women who were being stalked. When it was passed in 1997 the NUJ warned that it would be used against journalists”.
It now seems that the NUJ press card is no longer valid in the eyes of the police despite being originally introduced by the police themselves. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) spokesman Tim Mahoney cast any notions of police news management aside by saying “Do the police set out to control and manipulate the media? No, there is no intent to do that”
We can no longer sit back and watch our press freedom being eroded. Now is the time for the police to come clean about why they are intent on stopping the news reaching the nation. In the early part of this century the press baron, Lord Northcliff interpreted the news as “something which someone, somewhere wants to suppress, everything else is just advertising”. With the corporate take over of our media is vital that the real issues are reported and that journalists don’t find themselves wandering the streets in white paper suits.
Paul O’ Connor is the producer of undercurrents alternative news video. Undercurrents 9 has an award winning investigation into police suppression of the news called Breaking news.
Breaking news is available on undercurrents the alternative news video issue 9
Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions. http://www.undercurrents.org