16th February: Mass Resistance to Taking Photographs of Police Officers Becoming a Terrorist Offence
The new Counter Terrorism Act will come into force on 16th February. It contains an amendment to Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000. This amendment will make it an offence, punishable by up to ten years imprisonment, to publish or elicit information about any police constable “of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.
Furthermore, Schedule 7 of the Bill applies this amendment to internet service providers and web hosting services. This means they will have a legal duty to remove all sites perceived to fall under this offence, and has provisions for use at home and abroad.
It is unclear what information will be classed as “useful” to terrorists, but due to this ambiguous wording, the Bill has implications for bloggers, journalists, photographers, activists and anyone who values freedom of speech.
This is a call from Fitwatch for a mass publishing of information on police officers on 16th February. Show we won’t be intimidated, or called terrorists for resisting or monitoring repressive policing.
One action has been called by the National Union of Journalists:
The Counter Terrorism Act allows for the arrest and imprisonment of anyone whose pictures are “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.
The union is joining with campaigners to organise a mass picture taking session outside London’s police HQ on Monday 16 February – the day the act becomes law.
Mark – who uses his comedy act to expose state and corporate wrongdoing – will be joined outside New Scotland Yard by renowned documentary-maker Chris Atkins, NUJ vice-president Pete Murray and a bevy of photographers.
Photojournalist and NUJ member Marc Vallée said: “The plan is simple, turn up with your camera and exercise your democratic right to take a photograph in a public place.”
There have already been cases of photographers stopped from working by police quoting anti-terror laws.
John Toner, the NUJ’s organiser who looks after freelance photographers, said: “Police officers are in news pictures at all sorts of events – football matches, carnivals, state processions – so the union wants to make it clear that taking their pictures is not the act of a criminal.
“Our members are photographers – not terrorists.”