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04 February 2021

NMA Issues Press Freedom Warning Over Kent Photographer Arrest

The arrest of a photographer covering a protest at an asylum centre in Kent raises “serious concerns” about press freedom, the News Media Association has warned.

Press Gazette reported that freelance photographer Andy Aitchison was arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage at his home in Folkestone and held in custody for seven hours after covering a protest at an asylum centre in Kent last week.  

A News Media Association spokesperson said: “This case raises serious concerns about press freedom. As the eyes and ears of the public, journalists must be able to report upon matters of public interest without fear of arrest or other forms of interference by the police.

“The UK should be a beacon for media freedom across the globe but incidents such as these tarnish that reputation and, ultimately, undermine our democratic way of life.”

Society of Editors executive director Ian Murray said: “This is very concerning. We are constantly told journalists, including press photographers, are an essential part of our democratic system in this country and a free media is to be protected.

“But words are not enough. It is actions that count and arresting press photographers is not something that should be happening in a liberal democracy.”

In Parliamentary written question this week Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Labour MP for Brighton, Kemptown Commons, asked the Home Secretary what assessment her Department has made of the effect on freedom of the press of arrests of journalists in Kent and Northern Ireland covering protests.