The Society of Editors has welcomed an apology from the Metropolitan Police Service and a statement recognising the status of journalists and the right to carry out their work following obstructions at anti-lockdown protests on Thursday night.
Journalists and photographers were told by officers at the event that they were not seen as essential workers and needed special permission from the Met Police to be present.
Photographers told the SoE that they were threatened with arrest if they did not leave the area and reported that police officers were “hostile and very aggressive” towards members of the press throughout the evening.
A statement by the Metropolitan Police Service read in response:
“The MPS absolutely recognises the status of journalists and the public interest in them carrying out their important work.
“We apologise for any confusion or difficulties that some experienced whilst covering last night’s protests. These can be challenging events for all concerned; it is not always easy to differentiate journalists from participants since unlawful protests are by their nature often chaotic.
“We have issued additional briefings to our officers to enable journalists to carry out their work, at the same time as our officers maintain public safety and enforce the law. We would encourage journalists to ensure they are able to easily identify themselves with a press card or similar, and where possible to socially distance themselves. This will help both professions work together more effectively and safely.”
The statement comes after the Society wrote to the Home Office and Met Police seeking urgent clarification that photographers and journalists will be able to cover protests which take place under the new lockdown measures in England.
Ian Murray, executive director of the SoE welcomed the police’s response:
“The Society of Editors and its members will be pleased to see that the MET are taking seriously the role of the media and their right to attend and cover events throughout this lockdown and pandemic emergency.”
In response to incidents at the protests, the British Press Photographers’ Association has also written formal letters of complaint to the NPCC and Met Police to raise their concerns.
A full report of the incident which took place on Thursday evening can be read here.