Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Breaking through the Boys’ Broadcast Barrier


THE London Freelance Branch of the NUJ celebrates International Women's day with eminent journalists and leading campaigners for the recognition of women within the media industries: Dinah Caine, Kate Kinninmont and Katharine Whitehorn.

On Monday 8 March London Freelance Branch of the NUJ invites members to celebrate International Women's day at its monthly meeting: 7pm at Friends House, Euston. We'll examine the urgent issue of how to "break through the boys' broadcast barrier": in the words of journalist Laura Flanders women are the "Real Majority, Media Minority". See below for details of our speakers on this and more.

flyer for the meeting
Flyer for the meeting by Pennie Quinton (from a photo listed as public domain) - click to download A4 printable version (1 MB jpeg)

Katharine Whitehorn

Born in 1928 in Hendon, Katharine Whitehorn is a British journalist, writer and columnist known for her wit and humour and as a keen observer of the changing role of women.

She was a sub-editor for a women's magazine in 1956 when Picture Post photographer Bert Hardy asked her to model for him. He photographed her for a story on loneliness in London: one Hardy photo of her sitting by a fire with a cigarette, as if thinking to write an article instead of being lonely, became an advertisement for the energy drink Lucozade.

She wrote for Picture Post just before it closed, then worked as a columnist for the Observer in London from 1960 until 1996. Her 1963 article on "Sluts", in the sense of "slovenly women" and identifying herself with the term, created a minor sensation.

She also served as the Rector of the University of St Andrews from 1982 to 1985. Since 1997 she has written a monthly column for Saga Magazine.

In 2009 she began presenting the short philosophical Friday evening programme on Radio 4 entitled A Point of View.

Dinah Caine OBE

Dinah Caine is Chief Executive Officer of Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for the Creative Media Industries whose mission is to "support the improvements to the productivity of our industry to ensure that it remains globally competitive". She previously worked in the Film and Video Workshop sector, at the British Film Institute and for the media & entertainment trade unions ACCT and then BECTU.

Until recently she was Deputy Chair of the Alliance of Sector Skills Councils and continues to chair their work in London. In that capacity she sits as an Advisor on the Mayor's London Skills and Employment Board.

She is currently a member of the British Screen Advisory Council and was until recently a Board Member of the joint Board of the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen. She has also previously been a Board Member of the Northern Ireland Film and TV Commission and the Central London Training and Enterprise Council.

She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was awarded Fellowship of the Royal Television Society for her outstanding contribution to the Television Industry in 2002.

She was awarded the OBE for her services to the Media Industries in the Queen's Golden Jubilee Honours List in 2002.

Kate Kinninmont

Kate Kinninmont is Chief Executive of Women in Film and TV, "the premier membership organisation for the women in the industry", part of an international group with a membership of 10,000 around the world. As an award-winning TV producer and director, first with BBC then as a freelancer, Kate has filmed all over the world - from the dacha of Yevteshenko in Moscow to the bamboo hut of an aboriginal family in the tropical jungles of Malaysia.

For almost 20 years she has been an active volunteer with WFTV, running their Events Committee and chairing the Board of Directors for six years. She is a member of The Directors Guild of Great Britain, BAFTA and the NUJ, and is now delighted to be WFTV's full-time Chief Executive.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Police spotter card P: Pennie Quinton

Journalist and human rights campaigner,

Police spotter card P Pennie Quinton

Police spotter card P Pennie Quinton Photograph: Public Domain

"I was almost certainly on the card because I had been stopped and searched under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 while reporting on the DSEi arms fair in Docklands on 9 September 2003. As a result of being detained I was unable to film a key part of the protest.

"With Liberty, I took the Metropolitan police to the European court of human rights. The case was heard on 12 May this year after a six-year trek through the British justice system. I am still waiting to hear the Strasbourg finding.

"And now I am on a database as a domestic extremist. So what is that? Is it like extreme ironing?

"As a result of reporting on protest, my face is now stored on a series of overlapping IT systems for police eyes only. I am not happy. And, yes, this is a possible breach of my right to a private life, Section 8A of the European Convention on Human Rights.

"The cost of policing DSEi in 2005 was £4m, but the arms trade is worth billions in income to the British economy, arms are one of 'our' most important exports.

"For all 'our' liberal chatter about a 'right to protest', elsewhere in the world we are selling advanced technologies to melt and stir fry 'other' people who exist a long way away from the Palace of Westminster.

"There's the rub: if as ordinary people we dislike what our decision makers are doing, we hit the street to make our displeasure felt, can we wait for the media to hold the powerful to account?

"So the decision makers then organise a database of those who question the status quo, decision makers in general do not like to be criticised or challenged. See the work carried out by the International Federation of Journalists on press freedom.

So who really gets to benefit from the information stored on these databases, and is there any process for properly assessing the truth of police officers' carefully entered observations?

"Standing around protesting, or disrupting an arms dealers' corporate dinner in such a context is hardly extremism – merely inconvenient. I suppose budget allocation would not be so promising if the chiefs of police referred to protesters as 'domestic inconveniences'."

Monday, 15 February 2010

Rebranding protest as extremism

The label 'domestic extremists' helps the police justify abusing anti-terror laws to target legitimate protest

Are British law enforcers working in a culture where they routinely associate protest with terrorism? The scene is set by a Guardian investigation that revealed secret C011 databases holding information on "domestic extremists".

Unlike terrorism, defined in the UK by the Terrorism Act 2000, there is no equivalent legal definition for domestic extremism, as the home secretary admitted yesterday. So is domestic extremism merely an "on the hoof" concept devised in a culture deeply suspicious of protest?

The National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit, Netcu says:

These people and activities usually seek to prevent something from happening or to change legislation or domestic policy, but attempt to do so outside of the normal democratic process.

By their own definition I would regard the setting up of NECTU – an offshoot of an unaccountable private company, the Association of Chief Police Officers – as an example of domestic extremism, as it sits outside the democratic process.

Just as worrying as the world of surveillance databases is the range of anti-terror legislation used to target legitimate protest. The Terrorism Act 2000 has made London a city of "flying checkpoints" a term more commonly used to mean soldiers and jeeps pitching up by the side of a road, stopping vehicles, searching those that pass without reason other then that they are viewed as a security risk.

This power which allows police officers to stop and search any individual, without reasonable suspicion, has been used at protests to intimidate demonstrators.

I believe I came to be labelled a domestic extremist – eventually ending up on a police spotter card – after being stopped under section 44 in the Docklands in 2003 DSEi protests. I was prevented from filming protesters being pulled to the ground by officers as they ran towards the EXCEL centre.

Despite showing my press card, verifiable with Scotland Yard, to the WPC who detained me, I was prevented from going about my business. With the aid of the human rights campaign group Liberty I have been seeking remedy for what I perceive to be wrongful detention. It has taken six years and we still await the European court of human rights's (ECHR) findings.The problem is not just my specific grievance but that the actual legislation is problematic. The police do not have to provide justification for stop and searches under section 44.

When they rejected our appeal the House of Lords advised that if we felt wronged we could seek remedy in the county court. This proved unsatisfactory, as the police are unanswerable for any searches carried out under this legislation so cannot be questioned regarding their motives.

Domestic remedy exhausted, the remaining and costly alternative is the ECHR in Strasbourg. These processes take time and cost vast sums of money making this avenue of redress too expensive for most people to pursue.

So lets unwrap this, section 44 stop and searches can be carried out in any designated area where a special authorisation is in place. In London where many protests are likely to occur the police have carried out more than 150,000 section 44 searches since 2007. At demonstrations police officers, already deeply suspicious of the culture of protest, freely use this legislation. They can use reasonable force to detain someone to carry out the search if the person refuses to comply, they may even refuse to tell the person if a section 44 authorisation is in place, as this may benefit any wannabe terrorists in the area. There is clearly a cultural crisis in the policing of protest.


Halt the erosion of our civil liberties

SO DO European governments view protest as a situation equivalent to a "state of emergency" in which rights to privacy and freedom of movement are expendable?

Pennie Quinton reflects on the background to her European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling that Section 44 of the Terrorism Act is illegal.

Pennie Quinton: © Conscience de Pravity
AFTER SIX years, and with the crucial support of civil rights campaign group Liberty, the ECHR has ruled, in favour of Kevin Gilliam and myself, that section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is a serious breach of Section 8a of European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to private life.

We were both searched under S44 during protests at the DSEI (Defence Systems & Equipment International) arms fair in September 2003.

I believe S44 was misused to prevent my filming police assaulting protestors at the demonstration. This "emergency" legislation gives police officers the power to stop and search anyone without reasonable suspicion.

It is heavily overused, as statistics produced by Lord Carlile's reviews of the Act and others show.

Through our many hearings over the six years it became apparent that the police are unanswerable for any searches carried out using this legislation.

On the ground it is a relatively paperless power, for ease of use in any situation.

The stop-and-search power given by S44 was intended as an exceptional measure to protect the public from the threat of terrorism. So why are protests in the UK policed using this legislation?

Lord Bingham, ruling against us in the House of Lords, said that British citizens should be prepared to sacrifice a little of their privacy in the face of the current terror threat: but we should be more aware the sacrifice we are being asked to make.

If an officer wishes to search under S44 we have no right to refuse. Refusal means the officer may use "reasonable force" to ensure that the search is carried out. Reasonable force has the following vague definition:

A degree of force that is appropriate in a given situation and is not excessive. The minimum degree of force necessary to protect oneself, ones property, a third party, or the property of another in the face of a substantial threat.

As a freelance journalist I experienced one police officer's interpretation of reasonable force while covering the demonstrations that erupted across the capital on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. I was picked up bodily by a PC, then thrown at a moving vehicle passing Charing Cross police station. Meanwhile officers attacked protestors inside awaiting news of those arrested.

Is unquestionable submission to reasonable force yet another small sacrifice of all our civil liberties, and is it one we should be prepared to make in these "exceptional times"?

All professions must be accountable for their actions - including law enforcement.

Being stopped under Section 44 in Docklands at the 2003 DSEI protests prevented my filming protestors running towards the EXCEL centre and being pulled to the ground by officers - despite having shown the WPC detaining me my press card.

Interference with freedom of the press is of course another important factor of my test case.

As members of the NUJ we must work together to prevent the erosion of our civil liberties while continuing to hold the powerful to account with the best of all of our professions' abilities.

The government is extremely unhappy about the ECHR ruling: it has announced it will refer the judgment to the Court’s Grand Chamber. It has until 12 April to lodge this "appeal". Many feel this is a ruse to avoid implementing the judgment immediately - so watch this space.


Monday, 1 February 2010

Lights at Christmas time

Mermaid's egg.
Dragon bunker below here

Spectre walks the bridge

Sea faeries.
This is where the emotion map amd spectres roam in the mermaid story.
Recycled christmas decorations