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Photographer stopped and searched three times during Israeli goods protest

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 A photographer was stopped and searched three times within 45 minutes at a protest last Sunday, despite showing his press card, the National Union of Journalists has claimed. 

Philip Caller, a professional photographer and NUJ member, showed police his press card when he arrived, but was searched for keys, suspected to be for protesters' use at the industrial estate in Hayes, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said today.


 Caller said he was told by a police officer that he would be searched under section one of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) "as he believed that I might be in possession of a set of keys that fitted the locks the protesters were using to chain themselves to the gates". 

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[Photo: Philip Caller]

"He stated that in the past keys had been passed to photographers. I replied that I had just arrived, had been in full view of police officers at all times and that nobody had passed me anything. However, not to be obstructive I agreed to the search. My searching officer found my house keys. He tried these in the protesters' locks to no avail."

"After the search he allowed me to continue my job. But as I started to walk to the next blockaded gate, the same police officer said that I would be searched again if I approached any of  the other gates. As I arrived at the second gate, which was in full view of the first gate, I was approached by another police officer and told that section one of PACE was being enforced and that I was going to be searched. Once again my searching officer found my house keys and tried them in the protesters locks. But, of course, they did not fit.

"When leaving the second gate I was again told that if I approached the second blockaded depot, I would once again be searched. As I walked the short distance between the depots I was followed by a police car. When I arrived at the second site, the police officers following me got out of their car and proceeded to search me again under section one of PACE. For a third time they found my house keys tried them in the protesters locks and for a third time they didn't fit."

In total, Caller said he was searched three times within a 45 minute period: at 7:50am, 8:15am and 8:35am on 7 February.

The NUJ has condemned the police use of section 1 of the PACE act in this way: "This is an example of straightforward harassment which is totally unacceptable in a country which presumes to lecture other regimes on freedom of expression," said NUJ legal officer Roy Mincoff.

"While we receive assurances from senior police officers and politicians that reporters and photographers will not face interference when carrying out their legitimate work, it is clear that the instructions to junior ranks are still not getting through to all officers. 

"There has been some good progress recently on this, but it is essential that improvements continue. This incident highlights that much more needs to be done. The right of journalists to go about their work without police or other harassment is one of the tests of a free society. Too often, that test is still failed, and society is the poorer as a result."

"Press freedom is a central tenet of a democratic society," added Marc Vallée, photographer and secretary of the recently formed London Photographers' Branch. 

"Neither the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police nor his officers has any legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what the media record. To use stop and search powers to obstruct a member of the press from reporting on a political demonstration is very worrying."


A spokesperson from the Metropolitan Police said he was not in a position to comment on the case specifically, but said that police had a responsibility to protect public safety. Officers had been recently reminded of the need to let photographers get on with their work, he added.     





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