Protestor Extremist Database Win Reignites Journalists Legal Action

Campaign group I’m a Photographer Not a Terrorist (PHNAT) welcomes the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling on the case of a peace campaigner to have his details removed from a police Domestic Extremist database.

94-year-old John Catt, who took part in a number of protests but had no criminal convictions, argued the retention of his details on the police database was unlawful. After a case spanning eight years the EHCR has ruled in favour of Catt, stating he, “had never been convicted of any offence and his risk of violent criminality was remote”.

“I now expect police forces nationally to respect this ruling, destroy any data they hold on me, on other peaceful protestors and also journalists who are on the database and ensure they focus their resources more wisely in future.”

The ruling has a direct impact on the 2014 legal action launched by six journalists against Scotland Yard after discovering they too were on the Domestic Extremist database and details of their professional activities dating back more than a decade were being retained.

As far back as 2007 some photographers and videographers raised concerns that the police Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT Squads) were paying particular interest in them. Initial concerns were dismissed as nothing more than intimidation, should be ignored and the idea of surveillance being retained was ridiculous. That response was reiterated by Met commander Bob Broadhurst at a 2009 NUJ Photographer’s Summit.

A year later, after a 21 stop and searches and stop and accounts in one year of video journalist Jason N. Parkinson and an expose´ on police surveillance of the press at the 2008 Kingsnorth Climate Camp by the Guardian newspaper, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) launched and investigation into police surveillance and over the next two years funded two short documentaries, Collateral Damage and Hostile Reconnaissance. It also led to the formation of PHNAT photographers rights campaign group in August 2009.

It was not until undercover police officer Mark Kennedy was exposed in 2011 and the the domestic extremist database was discovered that Subject Access Requests were sought on information held.

By the summer of 2014 six journalists, Adrian Arbib, David Hoffman, Jason N. Parkinson, Jess Hurd, Jules Mattsson and journalist and comedian Mark Thomas held hard evidence that surveillance data on them was being held on the on the domestic extremist database, files that were as long as 12 pages, dated back more than a decade and documented such things as events attended, assumed political beliefs, sexual orientation, criminal record checks on a partner and even a family member’s medical records. The NUJ instructed Bhatt Murphy solicitors and a legal action was launched in November 2014.

Shamik Dutta, Catt’s lawyer and also the lawyer for the NUJ case said: “This ruling sets an important precedent that it is unlawful for governments across Europe to label citizens engaged in peaceful protest domestic extremists and put them on a searchable database for a potentially indefinite period.”

In light of today’s ECHR ruling Dutta said they would be writing to the police to clarify exactly what was held on the six journalists, why it was being held and when would it be deleted.

The third in the Press Freedom trilogy, the feature length film Domestic Extremist, is currently in production and due for release in 2019/2020.


Westfield Security Concerns

Footage © Yannis Mendez

Here @PHNAT we are outraged yet again by the intimidating behaviour of private security at the Stratford Westfield shopping centre.

While covering a vigil for a recent acid attack in East London on Wednesday 5 July, Yannis Mendez, a Freelance Video Journalist and member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) found himself surrounded by security officers as he filmed from the front steps leading up to the shopping centre (see above video). (more…)

J20 Six: Drop The Charges


Six journalists face 10 years in prison in America, for covering the unrest during the Disrupt J20 protests against the inauguration of President Trump on Friday 20 January in Washington DC.

I’m a Photographer Not a Terrorist (PHNAT) campaign group is outraged by this direct attack on press freedom and calls on President Trump to immediately drop the charges against the #J20six. (more…)

Sussex Police Apologise for Detaining Journalists


Sussex Police have apologised to NUJ members that were stopped and searched on when they were travelling to work in Brighton to cover a far right demonstration on Sunday 21 April 2013.

Seven journalists, two of whom are PHNAT organisers, were subjected to a search for offensive weapons under Section 60AA of the Public Order Act and Section 60 of the Terrorism Act, which Sussex police later claimed was a mistake.

The NUJ challenged the police and argued there had been an unlawful use of the legislation to detain and search journalists. (more…)

#SaveFoP: Save Our Freedom of Panorama


Image © Grant Smith

On 9 July 2015 the European Parliament will vote on the “Freedom of Panorama” legislation, a law that if passed will restrict your right to take photographs from a public place of buildings and even views that have been copyrighted. Read more here.

In the the days leading up to the vote photographers rights campaign group I’m a Photographer Not a Terrorist (PHNAT) and the London Photographer’s Branch of the National Union of Journalists calls on all photographers, professional and amateur, to go out and photograph your local landscapes and views, then tweet your photos to the European Parliament. (more…)

News From Palestine

London Leaflet revised 2

The NUJ London Independent Broadcasting and New Media Branch and NUJ London Photographers Branch are hosting a talk with Nablus-based photojournalist Abed Qusini, who is visiting the UK this month.

Abed will be discussing the challenges he has faced working as a photojournalist for 17 years in the occupied West Bank and showing an array of his work. (more…)

Nine Journalists Detained by Sussex Police

Press photographers get pulled off the motorway by traffic police and stop and searched for weapons under S60 and S60AA of the Public Order Act, quoted as the Terrorism Act. On route to the March for England, Brighton. © Jess Hurd/ Tel: 01789-262151/07831-121483 NUJ recommended terms & conditions apply. Moral rights asserted under Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988. Credit is required. No part of this photo to be stored, reproduced, manipulated or transmitted by any means without permission.

Video: Press stop and searched for weapons. © Jess Hurd/

On Sunday the 21st of April 2013 nine journalists travelling to Brighton to cover ‘March for England,’ a gathering of Britain’s far-right along with members of various racist organisations were stopped and seven of them searched by Sussex Police. Initially they were told the search was being made under the Terrorism Act.

The journalists thought it reasonable when a police car over took them and ordered via a digital screen that they were to follow. They were after all a minibus full of mostly white people heading to an event that would be populated by angry far-right racists. They were guided to a car park and garages in Hickstead a few miles away from Brighton where police were already busy searching members of the far-right.

Being exposed in this was a worry to the press as Casuals United, a group of far-right football hooligans and English Defence League supporters had called for the targeting of Argus journalists on the day of the March. The Argus is a Brighton based newspaper, but it was understood that no journalist was safe from attack.

Due to these threats the journalists were eager to identify themselves as press so that they could leave quickly without unwanted attention being brought on them. The officers were shown press cards but took no notice. Press cards carry the follwing message:

 ‘The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) of England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland recognise the holder of this card as a bona fide newsgatherer.

A phone number is provided to a hot line so that verification can be given by the UKPCA in the form of a password that is known only to the UKPCA and the journalist.

The advice given to police officers using Section 60 to stop and search suspects by ACPO, who recognise card holders as bona fide news gatherers, is that ‘Officers may question the person to confirm or eliminate reasonable suspicion for grounds for the search’ (Practice Advice on Stop and Search, ACPO and Centrex, p10, 1.6).

Sussex Police estimated that around 250 members of the far-right and approximately 1000 counter-protesters were in Brighton that day. They drafted in over 700 officers to police the event. It was reported that by the events conclusion at 6pm, 19 arrests had been made. To help make those arrests Sussex Police were authorised to use powers under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This gives police the power to stop and search those they ‘reasonably’ believe may be carrying weapons and become involved in acts of violence. Not the rescinded Terrorism Act they had quoted as the reason for the search.

Once reasonable suspicion had been eliminated the officers should have discontinuing the search. Instead, when asked why they did not recognise press cards, one officer said that, “the officer in the car [the car that pulled the minibus over)] had started the process, so we are obliged to finish it.’ Yet another said of a BAJ member’s press card, “Anyone can print one of those off, they don’t prove anything.”

Journalists being journalists, they recorded the encounter. One photographer used an iPhone to film the incident and a videographer began filming as soon as they could.


On release, they began tweeting and were overwhelmed by the number of retweets and messages of support. There was a high level of disgust at the idea of police using Section 60 to search journalists. The NUJ was quick to speak out and posted a statement online condemning the search. The police themselves took to twitter and apologised for the incident but quickly thought better of admitting fault and deleted the tweet.

But journalists being journalists, a copy of the tweets were taken before they were deleted.