An injury to one...

PHOTOGRAPHER Marc Vallée was hospitalised following an encounter with Metropolitan Police officers at a demonstration entitled "Sack Parliament" on Monday 9 October. Press reports said he was "treated at the scene" - true, as our photo shows, but also a phrase often used by police to imply that injuries are not serious. He was in fact taken to St Thomas's Hospital across the river. His injuries were not as serious as colleagues first feared and he was released that evening.

Marc Vallée is loaded into an ambulance, with the assistance of police medics
Marc Vallée is loaded into an ambulance, with the assistance of police medics

London Freelance Branch voted that same evening to take practical steps to ensure that Marc has any specialist legal representation he may need. Another motion to the union's Annual Delegate Meeting encourages the union to provide this for all members who need it.

Witnesses told the Freelance that after Marc was injured police placed a cordon around the demonstration, preventing participants from leaving. One videographer reports: "Several journalists were inside the police ring and when finally allowed to leave were forced to give their names and address and show proof of ID, in order to receive a possible summons for the offence of attending an unlawful protest. They were then told that they must leave the area or face arrest, and were then escorted from the square." These included "NUJ members working for the likes of the Press Association and the Mail".

It seems that journalists going about their lawful business of newsgathering are being treated like protesters under the clause of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA). This law forbids demonstrations in an "exclusion zone" around Parliament, unless the organisers apply for and get police permission two weeks in advance. The Branch is writing to the Met to assert that journalists doing their job should not be subject to SOCPA.

If you were thus detained or threatened with arrest, please tell us what happened by completing the form at www.londonfreelance.org/policing

At least one Branch member detained in the cordon still seemed unaware of the PIN - the number that confirms a press card holder's identity to police.

A student journalist with a temporary NUJ card seemed more assertive and clued-up about press cards than some permanent members. If you are unsure of your PIN number and how it works, contact the membership department at NUJ Head Office now - email johne@nuj.org.uk

And as stressed at October's Branch meeting, if you are a journalist covering a demonstration, show your press card. If you are at a protest as a demonstrator of for any reason other than newsgathering, leave your press card at home.

[Site map] Last modified: 20 Oct 2006 - © 2006 contributors
The Freelance editor is elected by London Freelance Branch and responsibility for content lies solely with the editors of the time
Send comments to the editors: editor@londonfreelance.org