I hope the late Stanley Kubrick won’t mind my borrowing the title of his film, which was shot in London and the Home Counties. I don’t think he would if he knew that February 12, 2009, marked “the enforcement date for section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 .” As reported in the UK’s Guardian , from that date on “a photojournalist who documents political dissent on the streets — and sometimes the fields — of Britain,” would be subject to prosecution under that act.
Since little mention of this major incursion of civil liberties has crossed the pond, and even less has been picked up by American “media,” I thought I’d pen a word or two about it. As with the deadly, former Bush administration, terror legislation has been rough-handedly applied by the British government. Great Britain is now using section 76, CTA-2008, to not only criminalize protestors but to criminalize those foolish enough to think they’re free enough to report on said dissent, i.e., photographers and filmmakers.
From February 12 on, it is an offense to “elicit information” or even “attempt to elicit information” about any member or former member of the armed forces, intelligence services, or even a police officer in Great Britain. It’s been an offense in Northern Ireland since 2000, even before 9/11 got the “War on Terror” going with its false flag attack, i.e., inside job. Though in all fairness and due respect, Northern Ireland had some history with terror in protecting itself from the Motherland’s armies and henchmen. And Great Britain had its purported 7/7/05 subway terror attack (by who is another question).
In short, you can now be arrested either for taking or publishing a picture of a police officer if the police think it is “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.” If you were so accused by the crown prosecution, it would be up to you to prove you had “a reasonable excuse” to take the picture in the first place: “Ey, I was only trying to get the goat standin’ behind the bloody Bobbie beatin’ that protestor over the head” or something like that out of Monty Python’s soon to be Bollywood film, Queen Mother’s Best Meet the Terrorist Threat.
But this is no joke, unfortunately, since once the government could nick you with CTA-2008-77 you’d be in deep trouble. “Anyone for lunch in the Tower? Today, it is photo-journo heads on a platter, deliciously served with jellied eyeballs.”
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That aside, Vernon Coaker, junior Home Office minister responsible for police, security and community safety, wrote in a letter to the National Union of Journalists in December as to when the police could “limit” photography in a public place, “This may be on the grounds of national security or there may be situations in which the taking of photographs may cause or lead to public order situations or inflame an already tense situation or raise security considerations. Additionally, the police may require a person to move on in order to prevent a breach of the peace or to avoid a public order situation or for the person’s own safety and welfare or for the safety and welfare of others.”
Well, yeah, all those flashes going off, and what about the phone-cams, blink, blink, blink, I mean, blinding (like A-Rod at Yankee Stadium shooting for his 500th homer in 2007). Then there’s the video news guys, what with their wide-eyes in your face, mikes, lights veritable chaos. Ah, but we know the real deal: nobody wants to embarrass the government for the recession when the beggars come banging their cups on the gates of Buckingham Palace, or hammer the well-suited G-20 over the Lindsey refinery dispute these last few weeks. Tsk, tsk.
So, section 76 will make a handy bookend with section 44 of the Terrorism Act of 2000 with which to bludgeon photojournalists. In response, hundreds of photojournalists gathered on February 16 outside of New Scotland Yard at 11 a.m., both photographers and filmmakers with cameras in hand to exercise their democratic right to take a photograph in a public place. Here, here, chaps! Well done, lads and ladies!
Yet, the larger implications of this Terror Act add-on are like viruses; laws like this have a way of crossing the pond on the sodden winds of change. If they can do this to British photojournalists, some bright light in Washington will want to import it here. We are still dealing with the issues of torture and rendition, where to imprison the former inhabitants of Guantanamo, and whether Bush and Chaney and their henchmen should be brought to trial over their war crimes, both in inciting the war in Afghanistan, then Iraq, after the War on Terror incited by 9/11.
And so, it would be major, like high concept, baby, if American photojournalists, writers, newsmen, and other famous faces could weigh in on this issue to help our cousin in Great Britain.