Following the backlash against the arrests of journalist Charlotte Lynch, filmmaker Rich Felgate, photographers Tom Bowles, and Ben Cawthra, the home secretary will introduce an amendment to the public order bill.
The journalist at LBC was arrested while covering climate protests by Just Stop Oil last year at M25. Despite providing her press card, Ms. Lynch was arrested on the suspicion that she was a part of the demonstration.
She tweeted on 9 November 2022,
“I showed my press card, and I was handcuffed almost immediately. My phone was snatched out of my hand. I was searched twice, held in a cell for 5 hours, and I wasn’t questioned whilst in custody.”
The two press photographers and a documentary filmmaker were also arrested on a comparable basis and held in custody for 13 hours.
Suella Braverman, the home secretary, will introduce an amendment to the public order bill. The House of Lords had pressured the government to introduce amendments to the controversial public order bill.
Initially, the government had resisted the amendment deeming it unnecessary as the police had admitted that the arrest was unlawful.
The Hertfordshire police in November 2022 had apologized to the journalists and commissioned an investigation. They had established that “police powers were not used appropriately” in making the arrests but did not acknowledge it being unlawful.
The report revealed that senior officers directed the arrest of four journalists covering climate protests last month.
Legal action taken by one of the journalists coerced the force to admit it was unlawful to make arrests. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) was quick to call for immediate action and condemned the arrests by the Hertfordshire police.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said,
“The NUJ is disappointed to hear of the breach of journalists’ rights at recent Just Stop Oil protests. Film-makers and photographers play an important role in relaying accurate information and quality journalism to members of the public. Journalists have every right to protect their sources and should not be pressured into revealing private communications.”
The arrests were thought to be anti-democratic and a violation of human rights.
The Public Order Bill allows the police to exercise their powers in a ‘proactive’ manner in dealing with disruptive protests.
Suella Braverman, at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham last year in October, expressed her disliking for such protests. She said it was “not a human right to vandalize property”.
Suella Braverman referred to Just Stop Oil’s protests when protestors dangled from the Queen Elizabeth II bridge at the Dartford Crossing, causing it to close on October 18, 2022.
In a parliamentary debate, she said,
“Yes, I’m afraid, it’s the Labour Party, it’s the Lib Dems, it’s the coalition of chaos, it’s the Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati, dare I say, the anti-growth coalition that we have to thank for the disruption that we are seeing on our roads today.”
The bill would stop demonstrators from holding the public “to ransom”, Suella Braverman added.
The proposal has been appreciated by journalists.