Friday, December 11, 2009

When taking photos in or around LCY becomes an arrestable act- or is it a PR coup?

At last weekends peaceful protest by a handful of Climate Camp Santa's in the airport terminal, it seemed that there was some concern at photographs being sent out to the wider world. A photographer, who is a member of the National Union of Journalists appears to have been arrested for simply doing their job.

You will recall that this is not the first time such an incident has happened. Previously a photo journalist, Jess Hurd was arrested and questioned for some ridiculous length of time for daring to take photos for a feature she was writing on a Romany wedding. Her crime? Well unfortunately for Jess Hurd, she dared to take photos of the happy Romany couple at their wedding - outside the Ramada Hotel, The Royal Docks. You can listen to her arrest here. What an utter disgrace this event was.

It's surprising what counts as 'crime' today, and what warrents being interrogated under the terrorism act, and arrested - it seems if you have a camera, and are near London City Airport, it automatically removes your human rights. Of course if you happen to live near LCY and wish to take photos then it appears you are dicing with the chance of being arrested, or being tracked by a helicopter. Our interest is very much about how the airport influences/dictates peoples lives and of them simply going about their daily activities and work in east London.

Further back in time a bird watcher had set up a tripod and scope in Wanstead to simply look at birds, the feathered variety, not the metal polluting variety. The SO19 London City Airport Police apparently thought he might be an international terrorist and pulled up, armed, and approached him. He was then questioned about what he was doing. "A police spokeswoman confirmed that armed officers based at City Airport approached the man as part of their anti-terrorism regime".
So if you fancy setting up your tripod and spotting scope, or long lens camera to take in the wildlife - as is not so uncommon in this country, and just happen to live in east London, then you have been warned. We'll consider the 'terrorism regime' the next time we're using the spotting scope to watch a curlew or a phalarope on the Thames which just so happens to be under the London City Airport flight path, as do many 1000's of peoples homes.

Even though security is essential to all our safety, you cannot help but wonder how much of this 'security' particularly when photographers are being arrested for covering protests/events is more about Public Relations control for the airport - basically of stifling reporting.

We've already seen the bully boy tactics of LCY on local papers and how far LCY are willing to go to keep the spin flowing and denying that there's opposition to the expansion. Surely the police security WE pay for at the airport couldn't possibly be used as pawns to minimise negative reporting?

This denial and desire to bury the 'opposition to expansion' was further illustrated by a rather ill informed article written by Lucy Fitzgeorge-Parker in The Telegraph in September. She clearly had not carried out any independent research herself as she put in her feature a statement from the airport " that there are no vocal lobby groups campaigning against the expansion of London City ". Rather embarrassing for her, and the airport when FTF was just a few weeks away from being 2 years old (and there had been over 1000 letters and near 800 more signatures on a petition AGAINST expansion compared to just a over 300 letters from business in support of expansion, and around 3 of them from Royal Docks residents, one of which was a local councillor in the area), and that a legal challenge against the expansion was launched just two days later. You can't help but question how far a private business will go to deny and attempt to bury the opposition.
London City Airport really do show they have good 'community relations', sending out SO19 to meet and greet residents just going about their normal day to day lives is impressive.

NUJ slams photographer’s arrest

The NUJ has hit out at the arrest of a photojournalist at a London airport. In a week when the police’s treatment of photographers made front page news the union expressed shock that another journalist has been obstructed by officers from doing his job.

On Sunday an NUJ member was arrested by two armed police officers at London City Airport for an alleged assault on a member of airport security. The photographer fully denies any wrongdoing and the NUJ has instructed lawyers to defend him.

The photographer had been covering a small and peaceful protest by environmental campaigners in Santa outfits at the airport. He was arrested in the middle of filing pictures to national newspapers.Commenting on the news NUJ General Secretary, Jeremy Dear, said: "Despite the new advice to police officers it appears our members are being denied the right to work. We will continue to support members who are exercising their rights.

"NUJ Legal Officer Roy Mincoff added: “While we welcome new guidance and undertakings to ensure that all officers, at whatever level, are aware of their responsibilities to the media, clearly much still needs to be done. The police must ensure that our members’ rights are respected and that what happens in practice reflects the agreed guidance.”9 December 2009