18 May 2012
IFJ Welcomes Journalists' Victory in Police Application for Production of ‘Unbroadcast ‘Material in UK
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed the decision of the High Court in London which ruled yesterday that journalists and media organisations in UK , including the BBC, ITN and Sky News cannot be compelled to hand over unbroadcast footage on the eviction of travellers' families from the Dale Farm in Essex, last October.
The decision reversed the order of the Crown court in Chelmford which had granted the police application for access to hundreds of hours of unbroadcast footage on the eviction.
"This landmark ruling is hugely important in upholding fundamental principles of press independence and an important precedent for any future police applications to commandeer footage," said IFJ President, Jim Boumelha. "Congratulations to our colleagues who waged a brave fight to resist speculative orders which were proved to clearly contravene the right to freedom of expression expressed in European law. Their victory will ensure that all their colleagues, photographers and cameramen, remain safe as they are not seen as an extension of law enforcement."
Following the decision of the Chelmford Crown Court‘s decision, journalists successfully sought a judicial review which led to yesterday's judgement in which the judge said that the earlier decision "failed to give any sufficient weight to the inhibiting effect of production orders on the press."
Delivering the decision, Mr Justice Eady said that "The interference caused by such orders cannot and should not be dismissed mainly because a small proportion of that which is filmed maybe published.
The judge should have feared for the loss of trust in those hitherto believed to be neutral observers if such observers maybe too readily compelled to hand over their material. It is the neutrality of the press which affords them protection and augments their ability freely to obtain and disseminate visual recording of events."
Journalists and their organisations, including the National Union of Journalists in UK and Ireland (NUJ), had warned that they would be seen as an extra arm of the state if they passed unaired footage to the police, reports say.
"Today is a huge victory for the cause of press freedom and the protection of sources and journalistic material," NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said. "We are incredibly pleased that the NUJ and other media organisations have won the high court battle against the police production order to force journalists to hand over their Dale Farm eviction footage."
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The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries