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17 Nov, 2022 19:50

British government slammed over arrest of journalists

Three reporters covering ‘Just Stop Oil’ demonstrations were detained last week
British government slammed over arrest of journalists

UK civil liberties organizations have demanded that Home Secretary Suella Braverman reconsider a controversial public order bill, after three journalists were arrested at ‘Just Stop Oil’ climate protests last week.

The reporters were arrested last Tuesday whilst covering the blockage of the M25 motorway around London by activists from ‘Just Stop Oil’ – an anti-fossil fuel group responsible for vandalizing priceless works of art in recent months. LBC’s Charlotte Lynch, documentary filmmaker Rich Felgate, and photographer Tom Bowles were arrested while covering the demonstration, with Felgate capturing the moment of his and Bowles’ arrests.

All three were subsequently released without charges. By the time ‘Just Stop Oil’ wound down their protest on Friday, 58 people had been charged, London’s Metropolitan Police stated. The demonstrations had been held in defiance of a court injunction.

“Arresting journalists for simply attending a demonstration is unjustifiable, unlawful,” and contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights, the civil liberties groups wrote to Braverman. The groups, which include Big Brother Watch, Amnesty International, and Index on Censorship, condemned the use of a recent bill criminalizing acts causing “distress” or “annoyance” to make the arrests.

They urged Braverman to commission an independent review into the bill, and to “both pause and reconsider” the introduction of a separate Public Order Bill that would give the police fresh power to clamp down on such protests – including the power to stop and search suspected protest organizers and stiffer penalties for impeding traffic or locking oneself to infrastructure – a favored tactic of climate activists.

Braverman has said that the Public Order Bill will stop demonstrators from holding the public “to ransom” and end “the disruption that we are seeing on our roads today.” Vandalism, she said, “is not a freedom of expression, nor a human right.”

Just Stop Oil is financed by the Climate Emergency Fund, a foundation started by billionaire oil heiress Aileen Getty and run by Trevor Neilson, an investor with ties to the World Economic Forum and controversial philanthropists Bill Gates and George Soros.