Innocent photographer or terrorist?


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skopio

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Nov 26, 2006
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Taken from:

http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/mpapps/pagetools/print/news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7351252.stm

Innocent photographer or terrorist?

By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News Magazine

Misplaced fears about terror, privacy and child protection are preventing amateur photographers from enjoying their hobby, say campaigners.

Phil Smith thought ex-EastEnder Letitia Dean turning on the Christmas lights in Ipswich would make a good snap for his collection.

The 49-year-old started by firing off a few shots of the warm-up act on stage. But before the main attraction showed up, Mr Smith was challenged by a police officer who asked if he had a licence for the camera.

After explaining he didn't need one, he was taken down a side-street for a formal "stop and search", then asked to delete the photos and ordered not take any more. So he slunk home with his camera.
To be pulled out of a crowd is very daunting and I wasn't aware of my rights
Phil Smith

"People were still taking photos with mobile phones and pocket cameras, so maybe it was because mine looked like a professional camera with a flash on top," he says.

"I wasn't very pleased because I was taken through the crowd and through the barriers at the front and people were probably thinking 'I wonder what he was doing.'

"To be pulled out of a crowd is very daunting and I wasn't aware of my rights.

"It's a sad state of affairs today if an amateur photographer can't stand in the street taking photographs."

'Crazy' officials

But he's not the only snapper to fall foul of the authorities while innocently pursuing a hobby or working.
There's a general alarm about terrorism and about paedophiles, two heady cocktails
Austin Mitchell MP

Austin Mitchell MP has tabled a motion in the Commons that has drawn on cross-party support from 150 other MPs, calling on the Home Office and the police to educate officers about photographers' rights.

Mr Mitchell, himself a keen photographer, was challenged twice, once by a lock-keeper while photographing a barge on the Leeds to Liverpool canal and once on the beach at Cleethorpes.

"There's a general alarm about terrorism and about paedophiles, two heady cocktails, and police and PCSOs [police community support officers] and wardens and authorities generally seem to be worried about this."

Photographers have every right to take photos in a public place, he says, and it's crazy for officials to challenge them when there are so many security cameras around and so many people now have cameras on phones. But it's usually inexperienced officers responsible.

"If a decision is made to crack down on photographers, it should be made at the top. It's a general officiousness and a desire to interfere with people going about their legitimate business."

Furtive photos

Steve Carroll was another hapless victim of this growing suspicion. Police seized the film from his camera while he was out taking snaps in a Hull shopping centre. They later returned it but a police investigation found they had acted correctly because he appeared to be taking photographs covertly.

And photography enthusiast Adam Jones has started an online petition on the Downing Street website urging the prime minister to clarify the law. It has gained hundreds of supporters.

He says it has become increasingly difficult to take photos in public places because of terrorism fears.

Holidaymakers to some overseas destinations will be familiar with this sort of attitude - travel guides frequently caution readers that innocently posing for a snapshot outside a government building could lead to some stern questions from local law enforcers.

But in Britain this sort of attitude is new. So what is the law?

"If you are a normal person going about your business and you see something you want to take a picture of, then you are fine unless you're taking picture of something inherently private," says Hanna Basha, partner at solicitors Carter-Ruck. "But if it's the London Marathon or something, you're fine."
Everyone in the photographic world has become so concerned we're mounting campaigns
Stewart Gibson
Bureau of Freelance Photographers

There are also restrictions around some public buildings, like those involved in national defence.

Child protection has been an issue for years, says Stewart Gibson of the Bureau of Freelance Photographers, but what's happened recently is a rather odd interpretation of privacy and heightened fears about terrorism.

"They [police, park wardens, security guards] seem to think you can't take pictures of people in public places. It's reached a point where everyone in the photographic world has become so concerned we're mounting campaigns and trying to publicise this."

It seems to be increasing, he says.

"There's a great deal of paranoia around but the police are on alert for anything that vaguely resembles terrorism. It's difficult because the more professional a photographer, paradoxically, the more likely they are to be stopped or questioned.

"If people were using photos for terrorism purposes they would be using the smallest camera possible."

Complaint

The National Union of Journalists has staged a demo to highlight how media photographers are wrongly challenged by police.

In May last year, Thames Valley Police overturned a caution issued to photographer Andy Handley of the MK News in Milton Keynes, after he took pictures at the scene of a road accident.

Guidelines agreed between senior police and the media were adopted by all forces in England and Wales last year. They state that police have no power to prevent the media taking photos.

They state that "once images are recorded, [the police] have no power to delete or confiscate them without a court order, even if [the police] think they contain damaging or useful evidence."

And in the case of Phil Smith, an official complaint about the Christmas lights incident helped sort matters out. Not only did he receive a written apology from Suffolk Police, but also a visit from an inspector, who explained that the officer, a special constable, had acted wrongly.

And there was one consolation for Mr Smith as he trudged home while lamenting the shots of Letitia Dean that never were - she didn't turn up anyway.
 

emerald

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#2
The line is very unclear and it really depends on the situation.

During my undergraduate years, I was doing a module's project about the MRT facilities to aid ppl with disabilities. In order to get the supporting evidence and statistics, I went out a trip with the MRT train with my PnS camera, to take photos of the disability-aidding facilities, like the blind guids, slopes, etc. However, this action seems inocent and out of a good purpose, but think it over now, if u see a person taking photos here and there at every MRT station, the first impression is that the guy is 'investigating' the MRT station structure, for????? An attack later on?

Therefore, I was stopped by the staff at Buona Vista MRT after I had 'successfully' taken photos at clementi and dover... The lady brought me to the office, asked what I was doing. I explained, but since I was with no permit from gov agencies, I had to delete all the photos taken and they noted down my IC no. and other details...I fear that my info is still with the police department now??!! ...... scary....

Sometimes, as a photographer, we need to be more considerate and just withdraw when it's not a proper time! Don't push it too much until a formal law is out and bans us all from taking photos...

:D
 

PhotoPetu

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Apr 18, 2008
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#3
I'm new to Singapore but I do know many things are a bit more controlled here than in many other parts of the world.
My question is; where you can take photos in Singapore? Or better yet, where you cannot take photos in Singapore? Can I just walk in any street with my "professional looking" DSLR and shoot pictures. Can I take pictures of people? Buildings? Can police stop me? Am I doing something illegal by taking photos in public?
Very generic questions, I'm sure, but is there some kind of guideline about taking pictures in Singapore?

Regards, Petu
 

skopio

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I had to delete all the photos taken and they noted down my IC no. and other details...
I'm quite sure that you are not required by law to delete YOUR photos taken by YOUR camera just because the MRT staff tells you to. of course if you don't want to kick up a fuss and don't think the photos are worth keeping then up to you.
 

skopio

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#5
I'm new to Singapore but I do know many things are a bit more controlled here than in many other parts of the world.
My question is; where you can take photos in Singapore? Or better yet, where you cannot take photos in Singapore? Can I just walk in any street with my "professional looking" DSLR and shoot pictures. Can I take pictures of people? Buildings? Can police stop me? Am I doing something illegal by taking photos in public?
Very generic questions, I'm sure, but is there some kind of guideline about taking pictures in Singapore?

Regards, Petu
there are no clear guidelines to photography in SG (others correct me if i'm wrong), just like there are no clear guidelines to where cyclists should be, or at least it is not known publicly.

what is certain is that if you are on public space/state property no one should be stopping you from taking any photos. you can look at http://www.landquery.map.gov.sg/ if you really want to know.

or you could search on clubsnap if you want more lengthy discussions on this issue.
 

zoossh

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#6
there are no clear guidelines to photography in SG (others correct me if i'm wrong), just like there are no clear guidelines to where cyclists should be, or at least it is not known publicly.

what is certain is that if you are on public space/state property no one should be stopping you from taking any photos. you can look at http://www.landquery.map.gov.sg/ if you really want to know.

or you could search on clubsnap if you want more lengthy discussions on this issue.
thanks for the link. but do u know by the way what is "statutory board land"? is that public or private, or in short, can we take photographs on these stat board land?
 

Mar 21, 2006
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#7
However, given the current security climate, it is sometimes understandably, although I agree that sometimes staff and security personnel can over-react or unreasonably paranoid.

Singapore is a little different from western countries in the sense that you can't persist on your "rights" to photograph or refusal to comply with the instructions of a law enforcement officer.

Although it is not written by-law, and you can make your complains afterwards if you're unhappy, but if a law enforcement officer specifically make known to you not to photograph/videograph or instructs you to delete your photos, refusing to comply can mean being brought back for some questioning...

They sure can't arrest or press charges, but to be rude or just outright rebel against their "advice" will mean arouse more suspicion and it won't be nice...

In general, photography on the streets, etc. even of buildings is okay, but within the grounds of private property, you'll need permission (eg. shopping buildings, commercial buildings).

To photograph at the above mentioned venues, you need to write in for permission beforehand and get a written approval.

Photo/videographing military and key installations (telecommunications/broadcasting/public utilities facilities) is a big no-no. Although they will need to prove that you're spying for a foreign power to press charges, but you can nontheless be detained for questioning.

In case you're really interested for some reason, to photograph/video military and key installations, you need a Letter of Authority (LOA) - a written approval by the appropriate military/security agency.
 

davee78

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Mar 23, 2008
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yup...military base no no no...especially airbases...dun try...
 

diver-hloc

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#9
I work for SMRT, so my advise is try very hard not to take any photo..... no matter how innocent, while inside the station.

After the last few bombing around the World..... SMRT is very serious about such threats. Yes, you may claim that the photos would be used for a school, company project..... but it could be used at the same time for terrorist to plan where is the best place to put their bombs for max number of killing.

From skopio :
I'm quite sure that you are not required by law to delete YOUR photos taken by YOUR camera just because the MRT staff tells you to. of course if you don't want to kick up a fuss and don't think the photos are worth keeping then up to you.
You are quite right about that...... but then the police will be called and you handed over to them..... which means a long talk at the station, follow by the same likelyhood that your photos will still get delated at the police station. So, at the end..... it will just waste more of your time.... not including the fact that for the next few weeks, your life record will be check inside out..... Not something I would want to go throught..... :(

Best to write-in a request to SMRT HQ for permission for such photo shoot...... save your work from being delated and the police being called..... :thumbsup:

Hahaha..... there was a case where 2 HK tourist was arrested by CID and 'Question' for more than 4hrs inside the staffroom of a N/S station because they were snapping photos inside the station...... happens a few weeks after the Singapore JI case was release...... :sweat:
 

zoossh

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Hahaha..... there was a case where 2 HK tourist was arrested by CID and 'Question' for more than 4hrs inside the staffroom of a N/S station because they were snapping photos inside the station...... happens a few weeks after the Singapore JI case was release...... :sweat:
sounds like the incident at the airport where a family was held from their holiday departure becos of a mentioning of the word "bomb" and the lengthy holding up of the indonesian diplomats for hours which exceeds normal expectation of routine checks

all these over-reactions going up the wrong tree. picking easy targets and avoiding likely suspects.
 

#12
Now hp cams are everywhere, which spy in his right mind would use a huge attention-getting DSLR to shoot?
We know that, but most non-photographers do not think that. If security cannot see, it means no threat.....;p, until it really happen.

Can you imagine james Bond 007 going around carrying FF DSLR to shoot sensitive equipment?
 

zoossh

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We know that, but most non-photographers do not think that. If security cannot see, it means no threat.....;p, until it really happen.

Can you imagine james Bond 007 going around carrying FF DSLR to shoot sensitive equipment?
one day sg may have to pay a price for that.
 

skopio

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thanks for the link. but do u know by the way what is "statutory board land"? is that public or private, or in short, can we take photographs on these stat board land?
er.. i think that means "govt" land? which although not private property, is not public either. i'm not too sure about taking photographs on such premises. sorry.
 

hongsien

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#15
I work for SMRT, so my advise is try very hard not to take any photo..... no matter how innocent, while inside the station.

After the last few bombing around the World..... SMRT is very serious about such threats. Yes, you may claim that the photos would be used for a school, company project..... but it could be used at the same time for terrorist to plan where is the best place to put their bombs for max number of killing.



You are quite right about that...... but then the police will be called and you handed over to them..... which means a long talk at the station, follow by the same likelyhood that your photos will still get delated at the police station. So, at the end..... it will just waste more of your time.... not including the fact that for the next few weeks, your life record will be check inside out..... Not something I would want to go throught..... :(

Best to write-in a request to SMRT HQ for permission for such photo shoot...... save your work from being delated and the police being called..... :thumbsup:

Hahaha..... there was a case where 2 HK tourist was arrested by CID and 'Question' for more than 4hrs inside the staffroom of a N/S station because they were snapping photos inside the station...... happens a few weeks after the Singapore JI case was release...... :sweat:
I wonder if these people at SMRT realise that REAL terrorists will NOT take pics in the open?

They will do it covertly, just as was shown several years ago in the case of (I think ) 20 people and some were videotaping an MRT station from inside a car?

HS
 

diver-hloc

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#16
I wonder if these people at SMRT realise that REAL terrorists will NOT take pics in the open?

They will do it covertly, just as was shown several years ago in the case of (I think ) 20 people and some were videotaping an MRT station from inside a car?

HS

It matters not.... Station Staffs will react as they are told to do, which is to stop people from taking photo inside the station.... You could try to 'debate' with them..... but in the end, they will just tell you ''A rule, is a rule"..... which very much just makes you go back to square one.

For better or for worst..... that is how 'We' S'poreans behave..... always stick by the rule. If you try to be the odd one out.... then you would have a long chat with the man in Blues. And after the selamat case.... I don't think the Police or ISD is soooo forgiving now. :(
 

Mar 16, 2008
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#18
I wonder if these people at SMRT realise that REAL terrorists will NOT take pics in the open?

They will do it covertly, just as was shown several years ago in the case of (I think ) 20 people and some were videotaping an MRT station from inside a car?

HS
i think the people at SMRT are just doing their jobs. they have probably been briefed by the police to stop everyone and anyone from taking photos at the MRT station
 

zoossh

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#19
i think the people at SMRT are just doing their jobs. they have probably been briefed by the police to stop everyone and anyone from taking photos at the MRT station
then i would say the person who define the job and give the instructions are at fault. when more attention is paid to the least likely but easy targets, little or no attention is paid to the highest suspects. a lot seemed to be done but nothing is done.
 

hongsien

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#20
It matters not.... Station Staffs will react as they are told to do, which is to stop people from taking photo inside the station.... You could try to 'debate' with them..... but in the end, they will just tell you ''A rule, is a rule"..... which very much just makes you go back to square one.

For better or for worst..... that is how 'We' S'poreans behave..... always stick by the rule. If you try to be the odd one out.... then you would have a long chat with the man in Blues. And after the selamat case.... I don't think the Police or ISD is soooo forgiving now. :(
I am not concerned about no-photography allowed INSIDE that station grounds, which is private property, and the SMRT have every right to stop it there (if you didn't ask for permission beforehand), I was referring to the case whereby a young man was stopped while he was taking pics of the St. Andrews church from OUTSIDE the station grounds......

It was reported here in Clubsnap, and the station manager called in the Bomb squad! What a waste of their time!!

HS
 

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