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Union protests over riot snaps ruling

Union leaders have criticised a court ruling forcing press photographers to hand over footage of rioters in Northern Ireland, claiming that it could put those behind the lens in danger.

Judges in Belfast decided photos of riots in the Ardoyne area in July this year held by the Press Association and agencies Press Eye and Photopress must now be handed over to police.

However, broadcasters including the BBC, Sky and UTV will not have to give up their footage as the judge found none of their cameras were in front of police lines, and so were unlikely to be of great value in providing evidence.

National Union of Journalists leaders said the decision was “a serious blow.”

Belfast recorder Judge David McFarland told the hearing: “During this period some were in front of police lines, and they would have had unobstructed views and images.

“In the circumstances I am of the view that this material could have a substantial value to the investigation.”

But NUJ Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley said:  “It is disappointing that the recorder refused to accept the principle that media workers should never be put in the position of quasi police officers.

“He refused to acknowledge the risk which arises when independent journalists are perceived to be potential agents of the state. It is surprising that he found there was no risk in journalists handing over material.

“In a week in which a working photographer was struck by a police baton in a dangerous riot situation in Belfast this ruling is another setback for the freedom of the press in Northern Ireland and we will be considering carefully the implications of the ruling,” he added.

Peter Morrison was badly hurt while covering another riot in the city on Monday.  It is thought the freelancer, who works for several clients including Associated Press, was hit by a police baton.

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  • December 10, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    When are the police going to stop playing silly burghers with photographers? They use their own photographers and seize CCTV tapes for precisely that reason.

    If they want copies of newspaper or agency pix all they have to do is to put their hands into their very deep pockets and buy them over the counter. That is vastly cheaper than wasting tens of thousands of pounds of public money taking the media to court.

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