“Tourist” sounds a bit like “terrorist”: be very afraid!

A father and son on holiday in London were stopped by police and made to delete photos from their cameras, of a bus station and some double decker buses.

From the Guardian:

Like most visitors to London, Klaus Matzka and his teenage son Loris took several photographs of some of the city’s sights, including the famous red double-decker buses. More unusually perhaps, they also took pictures of the Vauxhall bus station, which Matzka regards as “modern sculpture”.
But the tourists have said they had to return home to Vienna without their holiday pictures after two policemen forced them to delete the photographs from their cameras in the name of preventing terrorism.

Matkza, a 69-year-old retired television cameraman with a taste for modern architecture, was told that photographing anything to do with transport was “strictly forbidden”. The policemen also recorded the pair’s details, including passport numbers and hotel addresses.

I’ve just got back from Moscow, where there were hardly any CCTV cameras, and where I photographed and filmed stations and public transport to my heart’s content. (Isn’t that what everyone does on holiday?)

No sign there of the citizens-vs-State surveillance arms race (or should that be “eyes race”?) that is commonplace in Britain’s major cities.

While innovations like Google Streetview show images of our cities in detail, tourists and journalists alike are becoming suspects for simply observing the “wrong” things in a public place.

“Tourist” sounds a bit like “terrorist” on 12seconds.tv

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10 Comments

  • Transport seems to be a particular target for this sort of nonsense these days. Bit worrying that these police officers seemed to think there is some sort of blanket ban on photographing transport subjects when there simply isn’t.

  • While I agree entirely about the ludicrous situation in the UK, I can assure you, Helen, that you were very lucky when you went to Russia – when I went to St Petersburg we had to pay fines (ie bribes) to police after taking a photo of a tram, and then again while on a train, the latter time accompanied with the very real threat of violence.

  • Indeed. I was arrested in Russia (in Yaroslavl, to be precise) a few years ago for photographing a war memorial of all things, and I’ve had to bribe my way out of arrests in Moscow on a few other occassions.

  • We are sleepwalking into a police state. Terrorism is just an excuse to extend police and other surveillance measures. Stalin would have been so proud of you Gordon Brown.

  • “two policemen forced them to delete the photographs from their cameras in the name of preventing terrorism.”

    This issue was discussed on Radio 4’s Law in Action (10th Feb).

    They read out a statement from the Association of Chief Police Officers:
    “Police Officers my not prevent someone from taking a photograph in public unless they suspect criminal or terrorist intent. Powers to stop and search are strictly regulated by law. Once an image has been taken police have no power to delete or confiscate without a court order”

  • It is up to honest politicians (I really believe there are some) to stand up to the manipulative paranoia which currently dominates debates about the politics of policing and which seems to give bullies who manage to join the police credence. Terrorists, hoodies, paedophiles – any scare will do if you want to throw your weight about. Remember the recent story of the man who gave up photographing buses because police kept on accusing him of being a paedophile? I might consider going round photographing buses a strange hobby but it’s perfectly legal. I now await with bated breath the next hoodie or paedophile initiative from the Home Office – should help get a few much needed good headlines for them. We may not be a North Korea yet, but by being insufficiently challenged, paranoia is being allowed to set the agenda in our ever uglier country, and our police are merely following suit.

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