Documentary filmmaker Rich Felgate and press photographer Tom Bowles were legally filming the Just Stop Oil protesters
The were on a public footbridge over the M25 near Kings Langley, when Hertfordshire Police arrested the pair for doing their jobs as members of the press.
The pair who told the police, which fell on deaf ears that they have no affiliation with the group and they did inform them that they are press, but alas they were arrested, handcuffed and taken into custody for simply doing their jobs.
Bowles said that three police officers had searched his home were his wife and 14-year old daughter were woken up at night.
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He said, “As a photographer I’ve covered hundreds of protests and I’ve never been along as a protester, it’s not my cup of tea, I photograph them and that’s it.
“I feel pretty cross, I’m aware of the police and how they interact with people and they generally do a pretty good job, but yesterday was absolutely shocking.
“I’ve not photographed an arrest that’s as bad as the ones that me and Rich went through.
“I said ‘good morning officer’ as he walked to me and he grabbed my arm, pulled me away, told me to secure my camera and told me he was arresting me and put handcuffs on me straight away.
“I’m not a big bloke, I’m not a fighter, but he held me and put the handcuffs on while I was still holding my camera, so it was all very quick and very unnecessary.”
— Rich Felgate (@richfelgate) November 8, 2022
He added, “For them to make that jump is just astounding, it felt very concerning that it didn’t matter about press IDs.
“This isn’t the first time they’ve arrested members of the press at Just Stop Oil protests, they know full well they’re arresting members of the press.
“It feels like a trend rather than a mistake.”
The British Press Photographers’ Association (BPPA) said it “strongly condemns” the arrests.
The BPPA added, “News gatherers should be able to operate freely without fear of arrest.”
Dawn Alford, executive director of the Society of Editors, said, “The Society is deeply concerned by reports this week of a number of journalists being arrested while reporting on protests by the campaign group Just Stop Oil.
“The protests are a source of legitimate public interest and journalists, filmmakers and photographers have a right to attend protests and report on behalf of the public.
“We strongly condemn the arrest of journalists in the course of their work and will be writing to Hertfordshire Police to seek an urgent explanation and seek assurances that its officers respect the rights of journalists and understand that such actions threaten press freedom.”
'The idea of a journalist being arrested for doing journalism is something that should strike a chill into everybody's heart.'
— LBC (@LBC) November 9, 2022
Conservative MP for Boston and Skegness Matt Warman, said on Twitter, “It’s extremely hard to understand why the police would arrest a journalist. I hope a fuller explanation or an apology is provided very rapidly.”
Former shadow attorney general Baroness Shami Chakrabarti told LBC, “If the police are now going to start arresting journalists for conspiracy to commit a public nuisance – in other words for knowing that a demonstration is about to take place – then they are effectively shutting down the free press, the free media, in this country.
“And that means the public don’t get the opportunity to judge for themselves whether the police have policed a particular demonstration well or badly, or indeed whether the protesters behaved well or badly.
“So this is very, very serious.”