AddThis SmartLayers

Editor detained and journalists ‘pushed’ by police while covering protest

A police force has apologised after an editor was detained and journalists were manhandled by officers while covering a protest.

Avon and Somerset Police has said sorry to Bristol Cable journalists Adam Cantwell-Corn and Alon Aviram after they were apparently “pushed” by an officer while covering the ‘Kill the Bill’ protest in Bristol.

On the same night, Martin Booth, editor of news website Bristol24/7, was also briefly detained while reporting on the demonstration against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would limit the right to peacefully protest.

Martin has also since received an apology from a senior officer with the same force.

The officer who confronted the Cable journalists

The officer who confronted the Cable journalists

Adam and Alon were reporting from the demonstration just after 11pm on Tuesday evening when an officer ordered them to leave, appeared to push them back, and denied they were journalists in an incident recorded on camera.

In the video, the officer can be heard to say: “You’ve been told to disperse.

“The next thing that happens is force is used against you or you get arrested. Let’s get gone.”

When Adam informed the officer he is a professional journalist, the officer replied: “No you’re not.”

Speaking to the Bristol Post, Adam said: “An officer basically made a clear beeline towards us, behind the police line. He was right in our faces.

“Our press cards were at eye level and we were holding them up.”

He added: “Just after that video, an officer, identified as senior by having a red bib, strode up and said, ‘Are you press?’

“We said we were, and he told us, ‘OK, you have freedom to go wherever you want.’

“While the senior officer was talking to us, the original officer came over to us again and tried to have a go.

“He continued to say we had no right to be there. The senior officer told him to back off.”

Giving his account of the incident to Bristol 24/7, Alon added: “We had our press cards visibly on show and immediately stated we were journalists. We reminded him that the National Police Chief’s Council recognise press cards as official accreditation.

“He proceeded to push us back and tell us we weren’t journalists, and said force may be used against us.”

Three hours later, at around 2am on Wednesday morning, Martin was grabbed by two officers while walking to his home after covering a mounted police chase of protesters.

When he was grabbed by the police, Martin said he was told they “did not believe” him when he explained what he was doing.

In a piece published about his experience on Wednesday, he wrote: “At that precise moment, I could not conclusively prove that I was a journalist. My phone had run out of battery so I was unable to show police a letter from media regulator Impress confirming my keyworker status.

“One of the officers then said that they had seen me chanting. I politely told him that he must be mistaken but he insisted that I had been.

“He then told me that I had been seen running with protesters. This was true. I did not want to hang about when riot police charged on foot, with dogs and with horses.

“As my footage from last night and from Sunday’s riot shows, I was often close to protesters and rioters. These were extremely volatile situations and I saw it as my duty as a journalist to document as much of what I saw as possible.”

An officer then suggested he “could have watched proceedings from much further away”.

Martin, himself a former Post journalist with 20 years of experience in the industry, added: “After about five minutes of me being wrongly told by the police that I had been chanting and that I was being viewed as a protester, they let me go.

“I walked the few hundred yards to my front door, thankful that I had been allowed by police to go home after being detained for doing my job as a journalist.”

Adam has now called for better training for the police in dealing with the press during such incidents.

He told the Post: “We were trying to assert our right to report and -the officer] was denying it.

“He didn’t understand that you can’t get a press card unless you’re a professional journalist. It’s underscored by the senior officer who obviously was aware of that.

“It wasn’t a major incident in the scheme of things, but it shows this conversation needs to be had on the policing of protests and public order situations, and our rights to report it to the public.”

Avon and Somerset Police told the Post the officer in the Cable’s footage is employed by Wiltshire police and had been drafted in to help with the protest, adding both forces undergo the same regional training.

A spokesman said a senior officer has issued a personal apology to the Cable for “the way the reporters were challenged”.

He added: “It was not acceptable for them to be spoken to in this way when they were entitled to be at the scene and were clearly identified as accredited media.

“The officer was spoken to about his conduct on the night and a message reiterating the importance of allowing the media the freedom to report on event was relayed on the night to all officers by a senior commander.

“Although it was not an Avon and Somerset employee, all officers were there under our command and we expect them to reflect our values.

“The media have a vital role to play in ensuring events are covered fairly and accurately and we fully respect this.”

On Marin’s detention, a force spokesman told HTFP: “A senior officer contacted the journalist from Bristol 24/7 yesterday to issue a personal apology for the way he was challenged while covering the protest in Bristol on Tuesday night.”