s.76 Counter-Terrorism Act 2008: Photojournalism or Terrorism?
From today, a photojournalist taking photographs of police officers whilst documenting political dissent or public disorder on the streets of the UK may be deemed to have committed a criminal offence under section 76 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008.
Section 76 provides that:
(1) A person commits an offence who -
(a) elicits or attempts to elicit information about an individual who is or has been -
(i) a member of Her Majesty's forces, (ii) a member of any of the intelligence services, or (iii) a constable,which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or
(b) publishes or communicates any such information.
(2) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for their action.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable -
(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or a fine, or to both;
(b) on summary conviction -
(i) in England and Wales or Scotland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both; (ii) in Northern Ireland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both.
In other words, a photojournalist carrying out his occupation may be arrested for taking and publishing a photograph of a police officer if the police consider that the image is "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism". If the photojournalist is then charged, he or she would have to prove a "reasonable excuse" for having taken the picture.
Hundreds of press photographers and film-makers today protested against this new legislation outside New Scotland Yard. The National Union of Journalists and British Press Photographers' Association have also expressed concern that it will threaten press freedom.
Already, photojournalists working in the UK frequently find themselves harassed by police officers using stop and search powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.