The Society of Editors (SoE) is adding its voice to the condemnation of attacks made against journalists during the weekend’s protests by far-right activists in London.
The protests, organised as a reaction to the recent Black Lives Matter campaigns and included the far-right Britain First organisation, turned violent and saw police attacked as well as journalists covering the event. (above picture courtesy of The Telegraph).
The National Union of Journalists issued a statement calling on the government to create a body dedicated to the protection of journalists and condemning the violence.
The SoE’s executive director Ian Murray, said that the aggression and violence targeted towards journalists was unacceptable and once again called on politicians and civic leaders to speak out in support of the media.
“Following on from attacks against the media made last week during the Black Lives Matters protests and condemned by the Society of Editors, these attacks against photographers at the weekend underscore just how important it is for the message to be repeated again and again that the media are not and should not be made targets for aggression.
“It is completely unacceptable that journalists going about their lawful profession should face such intimidation and it bears out fears we have expressed time and time again that the important role the media plays for society is being undermined by those who have strong voices and yet fail to use them.”
Telegraph reporter Ed Clowes said on Twitter that he had “never seen a protest so hostile to press”, describing one encounter with a protester, who he said grabbed his press badge, as “menacing”.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, called for those responsible in Saturday’s violence to be identified and prosecuted.
“It is clear that many protestors on London’s streets today were thugs spoiling for a fight, who decided to focus their anger at journalists out doing their job. It is outrageous and disgraceful that in doing that job, a photographer had his nose broken and was verbally attacked as police brought him to safety.
“Another photographer was hit as protestors hurled barricades at the police, and reporters had their mobile phones knocked out of their hand whilst they were filming. Journalists have described the atmosphere today as menacing and threatening towards the media.
“There should be a full investigation to identify and prosecute individuals who attacked and harassed photographers and reporters, such disgraceful and unacceptable behaviour cannot be tolerated.”
Demonstrators, at what had been planned as a counter-demonstration to a Black Lives Matter protest that had been called off, were also involved in numerous attacks on police and police horses, with smoke bombs, bottles and cans thrown.
The protests included members of extreme far-right groups, including Britain First.
The NUJ reported that some media outlets advised staff covering the protests not to engage or seek interviews with demonstrators because of the fear of more acts of violence.
The NUJ is calling for the government to urgently engage with the union over its commitment to establish a National Committee for the Safety of Journalists, and create a national action plan.
Last week a press photographer was bottled at Black Lives Matter protests in London. An Australian journalist was chased down the street and his female colleague was grabbed. A man later pleaded guilty to assault.