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Tourists Or Terrorists? Police Erase London Sightseers Photographs Citing Terrorism

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Police using anti-terrorism laws to target anyone taking pictures or filming

Steve Watson
Thursday, April 16, 2009

Two Austrian tourists visiting London were forced to erase large portions of their holiday photographs by police officers who told the pair that they were duty bound to “prevent terrorism”.

Klaus Matzka and his teenage son Loris sparked concern with two London Metropolitan police officers when they were witnessed snapping pictures of Vauxhall bus and underground station.

The pair were then forced to delete all pictures they had taken which had anything to do with transport, including pictures of London’s iconic red double-decker buses.

Matzka, a 69-year-old retired television cameraman with a taste for modern architecture, was told that photographing anything to do with transport was “strictly forbidden”, The London Guardian reports.

The policemen also recorded the pair’s details, including passport numbers and hotel addresses.

Mr Matzka detailed the experience in the letters section of the Guardian under the subject heading Police, protest and the surveillance society:

During a recent visit to London I had a nasty incident, which killed interest in any further trips to this city. As I was taking pictures of double-decker buses with my son, we were approached by two policemen. First, we were told that it is forbidden to take pictures of anything in conjunction with transport. Then our names, passport numbers and London hotel address were noted. After that we were forced to delete all pictures that included any transport – even pictures of the new underground station in Vauxhall, which is a modern sculpture! These deletions were not only enforced destruction of private property, but an infringement of our privacy.

I understand the need for some sensitivity in an era of terrorism, but isn’t it naive to think terrorism can be prevented by terrorising tourists?
Klaus Matzka
Vienna, Austria

In a telephone interview from his home in Vienna, Matzka said: “I’ve never had these experiences anywhere, never in the world, not even in Communist countries.”

Mr Matkza has said that he will never visit London ever again after the incident.

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Despite police pronouncements that photographing buildings and transport facilities is “forbidden”, there is no actual law that says so.

This is not an isolated incident, it has been ongoing for some time.

One year ago, close to 200 MPs signed up to an Early Day Motion introduced in the House of Commons by Austin Mitchell, urging the ‘Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers to agree on a photography code for the information of officers on the ground, setting out the public’s right to photograph public places, thus allowing photographers to enjoy their hobby without officious interference or unjustified suspicion’.

The motion was introduced after the Metropolitan Police launched an advertising campaign calling for citizens to report any ‘odd-looking’ person taking pictures – to the disgust of both amateur and professional photographers, who say they are increasingly demonised.

The Met Police’s Anti-terrorist posters, which are worse than Cold War era propaganda, and a spoofed response endorsed by the British Press Photographers’ Association.

As we have also reported today, 62-year-old Malcolm Sleath from London was detained as a terror suspect this week simply for taking a photograph of a police car in order to document police misconduct.

The general population are literally treated as terrorists for photographing police misconduct, however it is absolutely fine for the police to use cars with telescopic spy cameras on a mast in an attempt to catch and fine drivers talking on their mobile phones, eating, applying make-up or otherwise driving illegally.

The nature of Mr Sleath’s detainment has raised questions about whether police were enforcing 58A of the 2000 Terrorism Act, a passage replicated in the 2008 Counter Terrorism Act.

This section contains ambiguous language which suggests that merely filming or photographing police officers is an act of terrorism. When journalist organizations expressed fears that this law could effectively outlaw a huge part of their profession, they were told by PC Alan Cousins of the Metropolitan Police Film Unit that the law would not impede them.

As of February 17, Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act also prohibits photographing police and permits the arrest of anyone found “eliciting, publishing or communicating information” relating to members of the armed forces, intelligence services and police officers, which is “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.

Essentially, under anti-terror laws, anyone caught photographing police could face a fine or a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Journalists have reacted fiercely to the provisions, which the police have been pushing for for some time. The British Press Photographers’ Association, the National Union of Journalists and the National Association of Press Agencies have all voiced concern that it has now become routine for police to conduct surveillance of reporters and photographers covering demonstrations in London and across the country.

Journalists covering protests say they are being targeted by police surveillance officers, using the anti-terrorism legislation, more so than the actual protesters.

A recent Guardian investigation confirmed this and revealed that police target protesters and journalists precisely because they have the ability to film and photograph them. In response the police are taking their own surveillance footage and routinely uploading it onto a database, storing details for at least seven years.

Because police appear not to have disclosed such activity, lawyers believe it likely that the technique is in violation of privacy rights under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act.

Below is a short video summarising the Guardian’s findings. Note how the brainwashed police declare that they trust the journalists “less than the protesters” and announce that they think it’s wrong that “they think they can just wander in and out of the bloody field” at the protest. The officer with the camera also has the temerity to find it suspicious that one of the journalists doesn’t like having his picture taken.

Also Related: “I’m A Photographer… Not A Terrorist” – a short film by Jason N.Parkinson

Such moves are not restricted to the UK police, for some time now authorities in New York have been moving toward a blanket ban on all forms of filming in public.

Camera crews are routinely threatened with arrest for filming peaceful demonstrations and cops have been caught stealing cameras from photographers and independent reporters.

It seems that filming and photographing is now deemed to be a threat per se. Pick from any number of stories archived at www.freedomtophotograph.com for example.

The crack down on photography and filming in the name of “counter terrorism” is just one more startling example of how we the people are the real targets of such freedom stripping legislation.

This article was posted: Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 10:21 am

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