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SoE strongly condemns arrest of journalists

The Society of Editors has said that it is deeply concerned and strongly condemns the arrest this week of journalists covering Just Stop Oil protests.

SoE strongly condemns arrest of journalists
Dawn Alford: “We strongly condemn the arrest of journalists in the course of their work.”

The Society’s intervention comes after LBC reporter Charlotte Lynch told Nick Ferrari’s LBC Breakfast show on Wednesday morning how she was arrested on Tuesday by Hertfordshire Police while covering a protest by the climate activist group. Lynch’s arrest comes only a day after reports that officers from Hertfordshire constabulary had arrested documentary film maker Rich Felgate and photographer Tom Bowles on Monday. All had been covering protests by Just Stop Oil on the M25.

Responding to the arrests, Dawn Alford, Executive Director of the Society of Editors said: “The Society is deeply concerned by reports this week of a number of journalists being arrested while reporting on protests by the campaign group Just Stop Oil.

“The protests are a source of legitimate public interest and journalists, film-makers and photographers have a right to attend protests and report on behalf of the public. We strongly condemn the arrest of journalists in the course of their work and will be writing to Hertfordshire Police to seek an urgent explanation and seek assurances that its officers respect the rights of journalists and understand that such actions threaten press freedom.”

Speaking to LBC Breakfast yesterday, Lynch told how she was challenged by officers while reporting on a protest by Just Stop Oil at junction 21 of the M25 on Tuesday morning

She said: “I immediately showed these officers my press card and explained I worked for LBC … and I explained I was there reporting on the protest.”

Despite showing her press card, she reported how, “handcuffs were banged on to my hands” and her phone was “immediately snatched away” as officers arrested her on suspicion of causing a public nuisance. She was taken to Stevenage police station where she was fingerprinted, photographed and held for five hours before being released.

Earlier this week, film-maker Rich Felgate reported how he had also been arrested alongside photographer Tom Bowles while filming the protests from a bridge over the M25. They were both held for 13 hours before release.

In a statement Hertfordshire Police said: “As always, our priority remains to ensure public safety – we have a responsibility for the health and safety of all those involved and everyone at the scene, including emergency services, members of the public, members of the press and the protestors themselves.

“These operations are very fluid and fast moving, with the potential to cause widespread and sustained disruption, that not only affects Hertfordshire’s stretch of the M25 but also the wider road networks.

“Our officers have been instructed to act as quickly as they can, using their professional judgement, to clear any possible protestors in order to get roads up and running and to prevent anyone from coming to harm.

“Seven people were arrested yesterday. Of these seven, two were subsequently charged and two were released on police bail with conditions. Three of them were released with no further action following extensive enquiries. Though as a matter of course we do not comment on the circumstances surrounding individual arrests, these circumstances did give us grounds to hold them in custody for questioning in order to verify their credentials and progress our investigation.”

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