Police have arrested and held for 13 hours a documentary filmmaker and a press photographer filming a Just Stop Oil protest on the M25.
Police also searched one of their homes at 11pm and seized an iPad belonging to a daughter, claims filmmaker Rich Felgate who is making a documentary about Just Stop Oil.
The arrests have been condemned by the British Press Photographers’ Association (BPPA) which said: “News gatherers should be able to operate freely without fear of arrest.”
The Metropolitan Police’s website states: “Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.”
Award winning filmmaker Rich Felgate said he and press photographer Tom Bowles were on public footbridge filming Just Stop Oil protestors who had scaled a gantry over the M25, Britain’s busiest motorway when they were approached by officers.
“Police had no interest in seeing press ID and handcuffed us instantly on arrival,” Felgate posted on Twitter. “They said they needed to search me for items which could be used to commit criminal damage.
“Obviously, they found nothing, so an officer said ‘just arrest them for conspiracy instead then’”.
Felgate said he and Bowles were held in custody “for about 13 hours” and questioned by police “whp tried to get me to reveal my journalistic sources and give them the pin to my phone.
“Tom’s house also got searched by police and they took away his daughter’s iPad.”
After providing “rigorous details” about his work, Felgate said he and Bowles were released with no further action.
‘At least 7 arrests of journalists at Just Stop Oil protest’
Felgate added: “I’m aware of at least 7 arrests of journalists during the @JustStop_Oil protests so far, perhaps more after today.
“This is second time I’m been arrested whilst working in the last month. At this point, all these arrests of journalists are not by accident.
“Are the police so mind-numbingly incompetent that they can’t tell the difference between a photographer and protester or do they know exactly what they are doing?”
Police have made numerous arrests at the Just Stop Oil protests on the M25 this week Blocking busy roads is part of an ongoing campaign to try and stop the UK government from awarding any new licences for oil and gas drilling.
In a statement to Huffington Post about the arrests of Bowles and Felgate at the Just Stop Oil protest, Hertfordshire Police said that seven arrests were made on Monday (November 7). “Of those, three people have been released with no further action following extensive enquiries. Two people have been charged, and two people have been released on police bail with conditions.”
More arrests of Just Stop Oil activists have been made on today (Tuesday) on the M25 after protestors once again climbed gantries to block the motorway.
In January last year a press photographer was arrested after taking pictures of a protest highlighting the poor conditions at a centre housing asylum seekers. Police seized Andy Aitchison’s mobile phone and camera memory card after his photos were published, arresting him on suspicion of criminal damage of a dwelling.
Speaking at the time, the executive director of the Society of Editors to the Guardian Ian Murray said the arrest was “very concerning”, and added: “We are constantly told journalists, including press photographers, are an essential part of our democratic system in this country and a free media is to be protected.
“But words are not enough. It is actions that count and arresting press photographers is not something that should be happening in a liberal democracy.”