Opinion: Photojournalism Production Order

The Camera Family. Lorenzo Herrera. Flickr


“Targeting Journalism has become a trend and now the people who are harassing and killing Journalists includes the Government as well as the people you would expect.” This is a statement from Alan Rusbridger, Editor in Chief of the Guardian. You may wonder why an article on production orders, a court order demanding the handing over of material gathered by the media begins with a quote about the killing of journalists.

Advances in social media and the internet have revolutionised how we consume our news and the speed at which we receive it. We now have an open, transparent medium for news and in the wake of the economic crisis, it has served as our main tool for sharing news and pictures globally in a matter of seconds.

Originally, the only photographs taken by photojournalists that were accessible to the public were seen in newspapers. These images were, and still are, tightly controlled by editors, leaving many visual stories untold. This was a result of practical restrictions and political censorship. The internet has ended this tyranny.

Facebook users alone upload over 200 million new photographs upload to the site every day. This has allowed photojournalists to tell their stories like never before, to an even bigger audience. This often exposes the political inability, the corruption and the tragedy that otherwise would have disappeared into the ether.

This brings us to the other, darker side of the coin. The role of the state and its war on information. Recently, a production order was issued for all photographs and footage taken of the riots in the Ardoyne around the 12 July 2012. This means the police will use material gathered by photojournalists, who often take the greatest risks with their safety to take their pictures, will be used to hunt down people believed to be involved in the rioting.

You would be forgiven for seeing this as an attack on press freedom, because it is just that. Not content with the mountains of cash invested in CCTV vans, cameras and camcorders; the PSNI wants to make photojournalists agents to meet their ends. Not only does this hamper our ability to present a visual story from an objective perspective. In a place like Northern Ireland, where photojournalists are threatened and attacked by paramilitary groups and rioters alike; it places us in immediate danger and tars us with the brush of “collaborators” and “state agents”.

In the interests of press freedom and genuine reporting, we must reject the war on journalism waged by the state and demand photojournalists and journalists be allowed to report freely without fear of oppression or production order. If we don’t, we could end up in a world worse than Rusbridger’s opening statement.


Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

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