We're photographers not terrorists, say press freedom day activists

By staff writers
May 3, 2011

The campaign group I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! is organising a flashmob outside London’s City Hall today (3 May 2011), on World Press Freedom Day.

PHNAT was set up to fight unnecessary and draconian restrictions against individuals taking photographs in public spaces. The event is being supported by the London Photographers’ Branch of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

PHNAT is concerned about the role of private security guards in the prevention of terrorism. Their role has been promoted by police, with the result that many privately employed guards are illegally preventing citizens from taking any photographs at all, says the group.

A spoksperson said: "Areas designated as public realm are often privately managed spaces that are subject to rules laid down by the private management companies. Most insidious of these is the outright banning of photography in some of our most widely enjoyed public spaces, such as Canary Wharf and the Thames Walk between Tower Bridge and City Hall.??"

The mass gathering will highlight the restrictions on street photography in a public space. Photographers are encouraged to bring a tripod.

PHNAT successfully campaigned for the repeal of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (January 2011), however Section 47a has been drafted in by a remedial order to enable police to use stop-and-search powers when a senior police officer reasonably suspects a terrorist action will take place.

The group says it is very concerned that Section 47a will be used against amateur and professional photographers, stopping them taking photographs in public.

An illustrated PHNAT pamphlet will also be launched at the flash-mob event. Created by PHNAT and London Photographers' Branch members, supported by the NUJ, British Press Photographers Association (BPPA) and the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, it will celebrate the history of the campaign.

Documentary photographer Marc Vallée, one of the founders of PHNAT commented: "The privatisation of public space is impacting on public photography. Private companies, with the backing of national and local government, are eroding the common law right of the citizen to take a picture in a public place. This is why we will be outside London City Hall on the 3 May."

One of the organisers, architectural photographer Grant Smith, added: "Private security guards are being mandated to control and attempt to prohibit photography from public spaces of private (corporate) buildings. The authority to do this Is illegal and amounts to legitimisation of these security forces to act as law enforcers, without public accountability."

I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! (http://photographernotaterrorist.org/) is a campaign run by photographers for anyone who values visual imagery. It was set up in 2009 in response to new terrorism laws preventing the photographing of police officers.

In January 2010 the group organised a mass photo gathering in Trafalgar Square that attracted over 2,000 photographers from across the country.


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