Sunday, 22 February 2009

Bad news for photoholics: pictures of British policemen are forbidden [Veşti proaste pentru fotoholici: pozele cu poliţişti britanici sunt interzise]

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...

[For all the posts on this blog go to/Pentru toate postările de pe acest blog mergi la: Contents/Cuprins]

10 comments:

dinu said...

Oops! I broke the law... :(
http://www.flickr.com/photos/_dinu/2887805763/

MunteanUK said...

Well, as long as Big Brother is breaking all the rules of decency taking so many pictures of almost everyone in Britain every day...

...I assume many photoholics will keep breaking this stupid law :-)

Gregor said...

Hi Bogdan

Just as well I read this.

Once I was walking down the road in Edinburgh. I saw this police-stop. These police (or 'counter terrorism officers' as our media calls them when they shoot or arrest someone innocent) were swaggering around.

They stopped an old man, and this police officer marched up to the car, keeping his crash-helmet on (presumably in case the geriatric was a blackbelt who might kill him with his bare hands) and started quizzing him.

If I had a camera I would have photographed it just because it was so absurd. A policeman who dressed like an astronaut quizzing a scrawny old man.

Incidentally, did you read about the way that the British 'opposition' party agreed with Jack Straw that it would be 'dangerous' for the British people to see the minutes of the meetings preceding the Iraq war?

dinu said...

just follow the link i gave you... you'll understand better what i meant...

MunteanUK said...

Dear Gregor,

Incidents like the one described by you are exactly what a photoholic like me would be tempted to photograph.

For instance, in New York I took pictures of policemen who were just busting a guy in the middle of the road, but none of the police officers seemed to have any problem with my camera. Unlike the old man you are telling about, that guy was putting up a fight, and had to be knocked to the ground with his arms twisted. Still, the policemen didn't say anything to me.

I wonder if taking pictures of such an event will still be possible in the UK...

PS: I didn't know about what Jack Straw did, yet it doesn't surprise me too much. Not until long ago the Brits were quite fond of their liberty, so - in order to subdue them - they need to be threatened by new 'dangers' as often as this is possible, in order to make them agree with 'limitations' to their freedoms.

Sadly, all these are imaginary 'dangers', while the real dangers (to people's souls!) are not taken into consideration. Big Brother sees no danger in the lack of morality of the Brits, and all this political correctness agenda does is to 'legitimize' sins, to turn darkness into light.

MunteanUK said...

@ dinu

I began browsing through your pictures even before answering to your first comment, as I am always interested in who enters (be it accidentally) on my blog.

I'm only at page 21 (out of 246?!), and I like them :-)

You're not just a photoholic like me, but a real photographer! God bless you!

Anonymous said...

acum mai multi ani am vazut o faza uimitoare cu un politai. eram prin SV uk, intr-o localitate ceva mai mica, extrem de curata. a trecut o masinuta cu sticle cu lapte, dar nu a observat ca i-au cazut cateva sticle cu lapte pe asfalt, care evident ca s-au spart si au murdarit locul. Masinuta a plecat mai departe, dar imediat a venit o masina de politie, a oprit, politaiul a coborat, a scos din portbagaj o maturica si un faras, a curatat locul dupa are a plecat, linistit. Va puteti inchipui uimirea mea?
C.L.

MunteanUK said...

@ C.L.

Thanks for giving this example of 'British Civility' shown by police personnel!

MunteanUK said...

I am adding some links related to the topic of this post, of utmost interest for myself - as a photoholic :-) - as well as for anyone taking pics in the UK.

The issue is clearly a serious one, as the British police are gravely 'misusing' anti-terrorism powers:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/6715886/Police-misusing-anti-terrorism-powers-to-stop-tourists-taking-photos.html

*

At least in one case, such an 'offender' was told "we don't ahve to have a law" to stop you:

http://www.prisonplanet.com/london-police-attack-photographer-claim-we-don%E2%80%99t-have-to-have-a-law-to-detain-you.html

*

The portrait of a 'photographing terrorist':

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/photographers-criminalised-as-police-abuse-antiterror-laws-1228149.html

*

I missed the chance to write about it when it took place (Jan 23rd, 2010) - there was a demonstration in London, organised by a group called "I am a Photographer, not a Terrorist":

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jan/23/photographers-protest-stop-search-terrorism-police

*

Photographers are now entitled to seek 'appropriate damages' if they are still stopped by British police personnel after a favourable decision issued by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg.

ECHR deemed Section 44 of the anti-terror law (which presumably allowed the abuses against photographers) to be unlawful.

http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/news/photographers_can_sue_over_section_44_terror_law_abuse_says_lawyer_news_299712.html

MunteanUK said...

More interesting links on the same 'hot topic' for photoholics like I consider myself to be...

[1] some articles that I missed at the beginning of 2009, when the issue became very visible in the British media:

http://www.bjp-online.com/british-journal-of-photography/news/1644048/jail-photographing-police

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7888301.stm

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1107342/MP-stopped-police-suspicion-terrorist--taking-photos-cycle-path.html

***

[2] another silly incident when two Austrian tourists had to go back to their homeland with some pictures (of buses & a bus station!!!) deleted by overzealous Bobbies:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/apr/16/police-delete-tourist-photos

***

[3] the rights of innocent photographers keep being infringed, even in 2010 :-(

http://www.urban75.org/photos/photographers-rights-and-the-law.html