The Bristol NUJ has sent out ‘advice’ to local journalists regarding the ‘Kill the Bill 2’ protest meeting at the Bearpit this Tuesday (21 March) from 5.30pm. And there’s some very interesting framing and attitudes in it indeed:
Our observations and comments on this email are in italics:
Some of you will be covering what’s billed as KilltheBill2, a demonstration on Tuesday next week which marks the second anniversary of the notorious disturbances in which Bridewell police station was attacked and many arrests made.
No mention of police attacking protestors first as plenty of eye-witness statements claim?
We can expect this event to be well attended and it may be the most antagonistic public order event in Bristol since the attack on Bridewell.
Surely the most anatagonistic protest since Avon and Somerset Police assaulted protestors outside Bridewell?
There may also be hostility towards the media from a minority of protesters.
Really? Surely the hostility towards journalists came from police, with at least one local editor being arrested last time? If protestors are ‘hostile’ to journalists it’s usually because they’re being filmed for clickbait articles. This film can be and is seized to use as evidence to lock protestors in Bristol up for a long time through abuse of the Riot Act. The kind of miscarriages of justice those same local journalists won’t bother reporting. Regardless of who you are or who you think you are, film people at protests and you’re asking for trouble.
The mood may be heightened by the release on Tuesday of the Casey report, expected to show endemic racism, sexism and homophobia in the Met.
Turns out that those of us who have said for years that the cops are a violent racist misogynist gang are correct.
Hence we thought it was worth reminding those attending of some advice to keep safe (not that most of you need it) and to assure you that the union is on hand if you have any concerns.
We have a good working relationship with Avon & Somerset Police and I spoke to Zoe Hebden, force head of comms, today.
They have a relationship with the city’s most violent gang. How cosy. You have been warned.
She’s promised to update me on Monday evening after the police have held a meeting in advance of the event, and if there’s any new information you need to know I’ll email you all again.
For the moment, I’ll reiterate the advice we gave originally.
1. Be very aware of your surroundings. Don’t get into an isolated situation where you could be in danger. Also, don’t inadvertently put yourself in the path of a police charge, or get swept up in moving disorder.
In danger from who?
2. If you want to identify yourself to the senior police officers present they will welcome this. TV crews often stay close to police lines and any journalist can choose to do this if it helps their safety. However, police understand and accept that many journalists will not choose to stand near the police, and many will not want to be identifiable as journalists.
Don’t identify yourselves to senior cops you fools. They’re dodgy and will only try and play you.
3. Police know what a real Press card looks like – thanks to the NUJ, this is now part of their training. They also know that there are fake cards out there, and others of dubious validity. Always carry your card and identify yourself as Press to the police if necessary.
A piece of plastic won’t protect you from a baton in the hands of a certifiable psycho.
4. We hope there won’t be any problems on the night. I thought we had an emergency legal hotline if people did find themselves in difficulty, but on checking I don’t think it’s always active. I will try on Monday to get a hotline set up so people have someone to call for legal advice in an emergency.
5. Here are some more points from the NUJ guidance on covering protests:
• Where possible, buddy up with another NUJ member and watch each other’s backs.
• Make sure that you distinguish yourself from those who are there to demonstrate as much as possible, seeking to make it clear that the only purpose of your presence at the event concerned is to act as a bona-fide, professional, newsgatherer. Professional journalists on assignment as an observer should never take part in a protest.
• If taunted by protestors or demonstrators do not respond to provocation.
What about provocation from the cops, which is far more likely to happen?
• Tell your employer if you’re uncomfortable being sent into a dangerous situation. Ask for a risk assessment. If you’re still unhappy, contact the NUJ.
• If you have concerns about the use of your byline or photo credit raise the issue with your commissioning editor or line manager in advance.
• This is not an environment to send inexperienced, untrained, journalists – certainly not if they are alone.
In that case we suggest 99.9% of the city’s journalists stay away then. Especially if you believe this pro-cop; anti-protestor shite.