Investigative photojournalist Marc Vallée, who was one of the guest speakers at the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom’s AGM on Saturday 26 June and videographer Jason Parkinson have received an apology and damages from the Metropolitan Police after being forcibly prevented from working by officers at a political protest outside the Greek Embassy in 2008. At the meeting Marc gave the background to the case and explained the importance of the police climb down for journalism and the rights for photographers. Writing on the Guardian web site on the same day, Olly Zanette made the important point that the Met’s apology to the journalists was only of value if it acted upon it.
He continued; ‘Police said they failed to respect press freedom by obstructing Marc Vallée and Jason Parkinson. Let’s hope this isn’t lip service. Once again, the Metropolitan police have been forced to apologise and accept liability for the actions of one of their officers. It’s an embarrassing climb-down for the force, which could have very positive implications for press freedom in the UK, especially for journalists whose work is to cover political protest and dissent…’
Both NUJ members received the apology on Friday 25 June:
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has accepted liability for breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The MPS apologise for this and have paid compensation. The MPS confirms its recognition that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy and that journalists have a right to report freely. The MPS recognise that on 8 December 2008 they failed to respect press freedom in respect of Mr. Vallée and Mr. Parkinson.
The police have accepted liability for breaching Article 10 and made a payment of £3,500 compensation to each and are paying their legal costs. Responding to the settlement Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary said: “Professional journalists and photographers have detailed numerous attempts by police officers to stifle the reporting of protests.
Today we have achieved a significant victory – it is right that the police admit liability, apologise and compensate those whose basic human rights were breached in such a blatant and aggressive manner.
“The police need to quickly learn the lessons of these shameful events, recognise the importance of media freedom and take the necessary steps to recognise the press card during police training to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The result is a huge boost for media freedom and the rights of photographers”.
On the day of the protest armed officer from the Metropolitan police’s diplomatic protection group pulled Vallée’s camera away from his face and covered the lens of Parkinson’s video camera whilst stating “you cannot film me.”