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Officers must be better trained on the rights of the press
07 May 2009

Officers dealing with protests or demonstrations should be better briefed on the rights and regulations of the press, the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has said.

Speaking at a Home Affairs Select Committee earlier this week, Jeremy Dear said that too few officers are aware of the guidelines set up regarding the rights of the press at public order events such as G20 and that few recognised, or were prepared to recognise, the press card and what it means.

While guidelines were established between the NUJ, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Metropolitan Police Service ahead of the protests at G20, Mr Dear said there was a “huge misunderstanding” in the way the guidelines were followed and said part of this was down to lack of training and briefing.

He called for “significant improvements” in the briefing of officers ahead of public order events such as G20 saying that all press, including freelancers, should be invited to such briefings. He did concede, however, that there may be security issues surrounding the publication of such briefing details on the Internet.

The media and police have a “common interest”, he said, and it is important for them to maintain a “good working relationship”.

“We don’t believe police are using their powers proportionately,” he said. He criticised the police for using section 14 of the Public Order Act to order photographers to clear an area of the G20 protest adding that the misuse of anti-terror powers had increased the discord between the press and police.

He rejected the idea presented by Conservative MP David Davies that journalists should volunteer information to police about protestors who break the law, unless directly requested by police.

The NUJ will be submitting a dossier of complaints from 13 journalists to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) this week. While Mr Dear said this appeared to be a high level of complaints, it was to be expected as the presence of press at the event was high.


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