Thanks to Colleen for this tip.
The Guardian has an interesting story and video clip about police surveillance of reporters covering an environmental protest late last year.
Secret footage shot by two police surveillance officers during the protest, obtained by the Guardian and broadcast online over the weekend, confirmed officers have been monitoring journalists at protests. Senior officers had previously denied journalists had become the target of surveillance units.
An ITV news crew, a Sky News cameraman and several photographers were among members of the press placed under surveillance as they left the camp in August. Later in the day journalists were followed by another surveillance unit to a McDonald’s restaurant where police filmed them.[We wre wrong]
It’s interesting that the cops feel quite at ease following journos who are legitimately doing their jobs. It’s very worrying and clearly the informal extension of surveillance by the police is just a normal part of function creep.
It’s really just their creepy function to keep tabs on undesirables like journalists.
The cops’ own commentary on this clip is also quite interesting. They have no respect for the protestors.
Why are the cops taking down details of camera crews and journos covering the event. I would hope that any reporter or newsworker might have the right to tell the police to get stuffed. But that’s unlikely, it could be considered anti-social behaviour under the wide powers cops have to demand information.
According to an earlier Guardian piece by Paul Lewis, the cops are using anti-terrorism legislation to legitimise their surveillance of journalists.
But then is the videotaping of protests legitimate?
Personally I don’t think we can trust the police, so when they say that they will not abuse the material they’ve gathered I don’t believe them. This stuff just collects and becomes an impressive archive of repression and a tool for the further harrassment of people who exercise a legitimate right to resist.
The Guardian coverage has led to a challenge to the police under the Human Rights Act. The basis of the challenge is that keeping material about people who are not even suspects might breach their rights. You think so?
This is just another extension of the surveillance society. The storage of protest footage and information about political activists can be used in a pre-emptive strike too. I know this might sound far-fetched and sci-fi-ish at the moment, but there are plenty of places in the world where governments are already doing more with their surveillance and even sanction disappearances and the murder of activists and journalists alike.