UK police spied on reporters for years, docs show
Raphael Satter (The Philippine Star) - November 22, 2014 - 3:00am

LONDON — Freelance video journalist Jason Parkinson returned home from vacation this year to find a brown paper envelope in his mailbox. He opened it to find nine years of his life laid out in shocking detail.

Twelve pages of police intelligence logs noted which protests he covered, who he spoke to and what he wore — all the way down to the color of his boots. It was, he said, proof of something he'd long suspected: The police were watching him.

"Finally," he thought as he leafed through documents over a strong black coffee, "we've got them."

Parkinson's documents, obtained through a public records request, are the basis of a lawsuit being filed by the National Union of Journalists against London's Metropolitan Police and Britain's Home Office. The lawsuit, announced late Thursday, along with recent revelations about the seizure of reporters' phone records, is pulling back the curtain on how British police have spent years tracking the movements of the country's news media.

"This is another extremely worrying example of the police monitoring journalists who are undertaking their proper duties," said Paul Lashmar, who heads the journalism department at Britain's Brunel University.

The Metropolitan Police and the Home Office both declined to comment.

Parkinson, three photographers, an investigative journalist and a newspaper reporter are filing the lawsuit after obtaining their surveillance records. Parkinson, a 44-year-old freelancer who has covered hundreds of protests — some of them for The Associated Press — said he and his colleagues had long suspected that the police were monitoring them.

"Police officers we'd never even met before knew our names and seemed to know a hell of a lot about us," he said.

Several journalists told AP the records police kept on them were sometimes startling, sometimes funny and occasionally wrong.

One intelligence report showed that police spotted Parkinson cycling near his then-home in northwest London and carried detailed information about him and his partner at the time.

Jules Mattsson, a 21-year-old journalist with the Times of London, says another record carried a mention of a family member's medical history, something he says made him so upset he called the police to demand an explanation.

"No one could possibly defend this," he said.

Jess Hurd, a 41-year-old freelance photographer and Parkinson's partner, said she was worried the intelligence logs were being shared internationally.

"I go to a lot of countries on assignment," she said. "Where are these database logs being shared? Who with, for what purpose?"

The revelations add to public disclosures about British police secretly seizing journalists' telephone records in leak investigations. Several senior officers have recently acknowledged using anti-terrorism powers to uncover journalists' sources by combing through the records.

Some police argue they're hunting for corrupt officers, a particularly salient issue in the wake of Britain's phone hacking scandal, which exposed how British tabloid journalists routinely paid officers in exchange for scoops.

It isn't yet clear how often the practice takes place, but the admission drew concern in Parliament and outrage from media groups.

Lashmar, a member of the National Union of Journalists who is not involved in the lawsuit, said the specter of terrorism was pushing police to be bolder and bolder about how closely they watch the nation's press.

"Police seem to have got the message that journalists are now fair game and you can surveil and watch them," he said.

 

ASSOCIATED PRESS BRUNEL UNIVERSITY HOME OFFICE JASON PARKINSON JESS HURD JOURNALISTS JULES MATTSSON METROPOLITAN POLICE AND BRITAIN NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS POLICE
  • Latest
  • Trending
Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
X
Login

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

SIGN IN
or sign in with
Read and share the latest news
whenever and wherever you are.
Top Stories
Features the most relevant stories,
exclusive content, analyses and special reports.
As It Happens
Get bite-sized highlights and up-to-date
information as the news breaks.
Latest
View the most recent
stories of the day.
Log-in
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet,
consectetur adipiscing elit.
Quisque justo est, auctor vel ullamcorper.
Log-in
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet,
consectetur adipiscing elit.
Quisque justo est, auctor vel ullamcorper.
How to follow As It Happens stories
STEP 1
Click the story in the As it Happens section.
How to follow As It Happens stories
STEP 2
Click "Follow Story" for updates on the news.
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aliquam eu metus vitae felis tincidunt finibus ut id sapien. Integer volutpat dui eu malesuada dignissim. Sed varius justo nulla, fringilla convallis sem porta sed.
How to follow Author
STEP 1
Click on the author's name in the article.
How to follow Author
STEP 2
Once you click on the author's name, you will be
brought to the Authors page. Click "Follow Author"
to stay updated on the author's works
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aliquam eu metus vitae felis tincidunt finibus ut id sapien. Integer volutpat dui eu malesuada dignissim. Sed varius justo nulla, fringilla convallis sem porta sed.
How to follow Tags
STEP 1
Click on a tag in the article.
How to follow Tags
STEP 2
When you click on a tag, it will take you to the
dedicated tag page where you'll see the article
viewed, along with other stories with that tag.

Click the "follow tag" button to stay updated on
the topic.
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aliquam eu metus vitae felis tincidunt finibus ut id sapien. Integer volutpat dui eu malesuada dignissim. Sed varius justo nulla, fringilla convallis sem porta sed.