Earlier this week Hertfordshire Police sparked outrage by arresting innocent journalists who were covering the Just Stop Oil protests on the M25.
Campaigners are urging the government to rethink the Public Order Bill following the “unjustifiable, unlawful” arrests which “threatens press freedom.”
Civil liberties groups including Liberty, Big Brother Watch, Amnesty International UK and the National Union of Journalists have written to the Home Secretary expressing their concerns.
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They have urged Suella Braverman to “pause and rethink” the Public Order Bill which is currently being reviewed in Parliament.
Under the proposed Bill this would give the police more powers to restrict the democratic right to protest.
The campaigners are calling on the government to have an independent review over the public nuisance offence.
LBC’s Charlotte Lynch was arrested on conspiracy to commit public nuisance whilst legally doing her job when the police “banged on handcuffs.”
Documentary filmmaker Rich Felgate and photographer Tom Bowles were also arrested as they were filming the protesters.
Campaigners said in their letter, “The arrests of journalists this week regrettably evidence our concern that this power is dangerously broad and poses a threat to British democracy and respect for fundamental human rights.
“In light of these events, and in the context of creating additional police powers to restrict the right to protest, we call on you to commission an independent review into the new public nuisance offence and both pause and reconsider plans to curtail individuals’ right to freedom of expression through the Public Order Bill, which will disproportionately affect communities for whom this right is most urgent.”
Big Brother Watch spokesman Mark Johnson said, “The arrests of journalists by Hertfordshire Constabulary were a gross violation of press freedom in the UK, but these arrests did not occur in a vacuum.
“Through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, the Government created sweeping new authoritarian powers that seriously threaten civil liberties in the UK.
“The arrests directly show the risks of creating broad laws which unduly limit democratic activities.
“In light of these events that the Government must urgently pause its Public Order Bill, which will take police powers to restrict protest rights to an unprecedented level in this country.”
A Home Office spokesman said, “The Home Secretary has been clear that we need to do more to protect the rights of the law-abiding majority to go about their business.
“Not only is the serious disruption we have experienced recently extremely dangerous for all involved, it costs the taxpayer millions and is draining police resources.
“The police need, and have requested, strengthened powers so they can tackle this rise in guerrilla protest tactics.
“That’s exactly what the Public Order Bill will do and it will also help protect press freedoms – previously protesters have tried shutting down printing presses which is completely unacceptable.”
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