The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
It's Not The Taking Part


Anthony McIntyre • The Journalist, September 2006

The thorny issue of a demarcation line between journalist and campaigning activist once again raised its head at the last Liverpool ADM. There are those within the union who seem to think that no distinction is suitable and that journalists should experience no inhibitions in relation to participating in protests or campaigning. Given that journalists are frequently amongst the most diligent campaigners it is not all that remarkable that at times the role of journalist and campaigner would seem to fuse. And as has been demonstrated by the actions of Thames Valley Police when they arrested Rodney Mansfield and photographer Nick Cobbing, the police themselves want any distinction blurred for the purpose of policing journalism under the auspices of policing protests.

Journalists like everybody else in society should be free to engage in political protests and their membership of the union should not function as some sort of constraint on campaigning. But again like other members of society journalists should only be in protests as protestors and not as journalists per se.

Journalists should not be compromising the integrity of journalism while they pursue their own particular campaigning interest, no matter how just that campaign may be. The press card should never be produced to advance a particular interest other than the interests of journalism. Given the very real conflict of interest scenario that is bound to arise can a journalist as protestor have the confidence of the public to report fairly on the behaviour of both the protestors and those policing the protest alike?

There are of course occasions when journalists may find themselves faced with making an on the spot decision. At an anti-war protest in Belfast three years ago, I attended as part of the protest. When the police began to use violent tactics against the protesters, many of them in school uniform, I produced my press card and confronted police with it. I did not feel in that circumstance that I was using it in furtherance of the protestors' demands but as an exercise in monitoring aggressive state power for the purpose of curbing it. My verbal exchange with the police concerned not the merits of the demands being made by the anti-war protestors but the heavy handed measures employed by the police. While my action can in no way be considered as an act of newsgathering it was, I believe, consistent with journalistic principles.

The union is obligated to defend its members but it can only defend its members journalistic activities and not whatever else they do. The union must defend journalism in every circumstance. It does not follow from this, however, that it must also defend journalists in every instance.



An edited version of this featured in the Journalist September 2006
































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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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19 November 2006

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