One of the latest pieces of bad news from the UK – a new anti-terror (anti-liberty in my view) law makes it easier for law enforcement officers in this country to prevent people (including photoholic tourists like me :-) from taking pictures of policemen or military personnel.
This actually restricts the freedom of professional photographers and amateurs to make pictures of any event where the police is present! Of course, they are supposed to do it in the British polite manner, initially asking you ‘to stop taking pictures’, and only afterwards arresting you.
Those who refuse to stop taking pictures after being warned may be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison or unspecified fines. But what if you don’t hear the warning or you’re just too excited about what you’re shooting to stop rightaway?! Or what if the event (a riot, a strike, a streetfight, a car accident, the seizure of somebody etc) is really worth taking pictures of?
Like many British laws (which are so peculiar, so vague, so unclear to those used to a French-style or continental manner of legislating), I guess there’s no clear interdiction, but a relative one… left to the presumed common sense (?!) of the policemen.
And it’s quite funny to read in China Daily, the English newpaper of a Communist regime, this advice given by the Associated Press: “Tourists better think twice now before snapping pictures of the iconic British bobby,” isn’t it?
After other people expressed their opinions on such an un-British interdiction – as long as taking pics of a British Bobby was basically a ‘must do’ for every foreigner coming to visit the UK – I don’t think I could add any more relevant comments.
What I want to say is that you don’t have to be a photoholic, in order to feel somehow sorry that pictures like the above one (with mounted policewomen Kensington Gardens), may become impossible to take…
Obviously, the official explanation – that terrorists may take photos of officers and ‘targets’ – is complete nonsense. Had this silly motivation been offered in another country than the UK (one facing a real and permanent terrorist threat – Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan etc), it could be somehow understandable, however, still hardly acceptable.
Given the fact that the UK is so filled up with surveillance devices and people are being photographed hundreds of times each day, I’d say that this law is the first step towards imposing a state monopoly on taking pictures in public spaces... Forbidding people from taking pictures is clearly another symptom of the terminal disease the British democracy is suffering from.
It may be a matter of years (as this economic crisis enhances totalitarian impulses) or still decades (I’d be excessively optimistic to believe this, wouldn’t I?), but this British democracy – as many people in the world admire it, and as many Brits unfortunately take it for granted – is already in its death throes...
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