A journalist on the scene has spoken to Press Gazette about how photographers came under attack whilst covering an English Defence League demonstration in east London on Saturday afternoon.
The journalist, who said they did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals from the far-right group, backed up reports by the National Union of Journalists that a photographer was set on fire and that a female journalist had made a complaint of a sexual assault.
He said that it appeared that the photographer might have been sprayed with lighter fluid setting light to their shirt. The photographer carried on working but was later treated in hospital for minor burns, the source said.
He said: ‘There were a group of about 20 photographers standing on a raised piece of land behind the police line while Tommy Robinson [the EDL leader) was speaking near Aldgate. One of my colleagues was punched and a female photographer was hit inappropriately, they are classing it as a sexual assault.”
He added: ‘The EDL has a history attacking members of the media. I think they turn on photographers because we are more visible than writers who can blend in more easily.
‘They don’t like journalists covering their events because it leads to reports and pictures coming out showing their violence.”
He said that he has covered a number of EDL events and knows of other incidents where journalists have been attacked, intimidated and even followed home by suspected EDL supporters.
A video emerged yesterday of Saturday afternoon’s demonstration (link below) which showed an apparent EDL supporter scuffling with a photographer and then being detained by police.
A spokesman for the Met Police said: “We are investigating an allegation of an assault in which a 17-year-old male had his clothing set alight during the demonstrations in the Aldgate area at around 2.10pm on Saturday, 3 September, 2011. The victim’s outer clothing was scorched and he suffered small partial thickness burns to his hip. Officers on scene administered initial first aid and advised the male to attend hospital. The victim later attended hospital and was treated for the injury and released.
“No arrests at this stage and enquiries continue. Anyone with any information about this incident can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.”
The English Defence League has yet to respond to a request for a comment.
Yesterday NUJ leader Michelle Stanistreet said: ‘These violent attacks are an appalling abuse of press freedom and a clear attempt by members of the EDL to deter journalists from carrying out their work.
‘These attacks are designed to intimidate NUJ members and those in the local community who are determined to stand up to far-right groups.
‘The police need to take decisive action to ensure that the thugs who attacked journalists during the EDL protest are identified and prosecuted.”