UK Photo Journalists: List of Areas Subject to Section 44 Unknown

by Irma Arkus

Photographers in UK are facing what many describe as a catch 22. According to Section 44 of the newly introduced Terrorism Act, photographers can be detained, and any police officer is authorised to search, and seize equipment. The tricky part is that the act “allows Chief Constables to request authorisation from the Home Secretary to define an area” in which police officers have the authority to enact such searches.

The question is then, which areas are off limits?

After British Journal of Photography submitted their request to Home Office requesting information on these areas under the Freedom of Information Act, the office refused: “The Home Office has rejected a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the BJP regarding the disclosure of the list of all areas where police officers are authorised to stop-and-search photographers under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.”

According to the British Journal of Photography, the common knowledge is that the entire city of London is covered under the legislation, but which other areas of London are affected is unknown.

This places photography journalists under a disadvantage. Because of the lack of tranparency and information disclosure, they can be detained anywhere, without being certain of their legal rights.

This, on the other hand, gives an unprecedented freedom to the police. They can technically, detain journalists, search and seize them based on this idea of “safeguarding National Security.”

We’ve experienced in recent years, stories of many journalists who, upon entry to various dictatorial regimes, experienced such inexplicable treatment by authorities who violated their rights and freedoms.

Their questioning, detention, seizure of equipment and property, seemed unthinkable to our civilized, western world counterparts. We, unlike them, were assured that certain freedoms were to be had for all. Now, it seems, not only are we no better than those we pointed fingers at, but the freedoms our predecessors fought for, were discareded, exchanged for a measly, meaningless term: security. [BJP]