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.


First it was Terrorism, Now it’s Supercars

Bystanders using phones to photograph Supercars on Regent Street. Photo © Pete Maclaine.

Photography has been a hobby or a job for someone since 1827. Now the photographer is not only viewed as suspicious but encouraging perceived anti-social behaviour.

This time the apparent anti-social behavior takes the form of car enthusiasts who like to show off their ‘Supercars’ in and around London, with Knightsbridge being a major attraction. (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…)

Police Scotland Want to Seize Your Phone

London, UK. 14 November, 2015. Metropolitan Police Officers stand guard as thousands gather in Trafalgar Square for a candlelit vigil in solidarity with the victims of last night's terrorists attacks in Paris.

Metropolitan Police at Paris Attack Candlelit Vigil. London. © Pete Maclaine.

I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist (PHNAT) is seriously concerned by reports that Police Scotland intends to “seize phones if officers are filmed whilst on duty”, according to the Daily Record.

PHNAT is worried by the apparent conflation of the lawful act of recording police officers with an unrelated offence of obstruction, which can be committed whether using a cameraphone or not. (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…)

Don’t Shoot, I’m A Photographer Not a Terrorist!

Image © Jess Hurd/reportdigital.co.uk

Image © Jess Hurd/reportdigital.co.uk

PHNAT are disturbed by the Metropolitan Police’s reaction to a press release from Jason Knauf, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Communications Secretary.

Kensington Palace has focused on the alleged harassment and surveillance of Prince George and Princess Charlotte by ‘paparazzi photographers,’ a sweeping generalisation of photographers often used by the Royals. (more…)