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August 10, 2010

Warnings issued over unofficial ‘press card’

By Oliver Luft

United Kingdom Press Card Authority chairman Mike Granatt has expressed concerns about a ‘press pass’being sold by a citizen journalism website.

Granatt said that his organisation, which oversees the voluntary press card scheme run by the news industry, is to make contact with police forces and other organisations across the country to alert them to the unofficial card.

Despite having a similar appearance to the industry-approved card carried by members of the UK press, Granatt said the pass issued by Demotix had not been sanctioned by the industry.

Currently 17 national news industry employers, trade unions and professional associations act as “gatekeepers” by issuing official journalist credentials across the UK.

These organisations including the BBC, Sky, ITN, the National Association of Press Agencies, the Newspaper Society and the NUJ.

Granatt said: “The National Press Card is the card of professional journalists within the UK.

“All the major media organisations, associations and trades unions are part of the scheme…We have worked hard over many years to establish the National Press Card as the ID for professional journalists.

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“It is designed to assure the police and others that the holder is a professional news-gatherer, working full-time to serve the public.

“Our concern is that the police and third parties might be misled by the Demotix card.”

Turi Munthe, chief executive of Demotix, told Press Gazette that his organisation had distributed under 100 cards since it started issuing accreditation, with just “five or six” issued in the UK, a low priority area for the organisation.

The vast majority of cards, which cost around £17, had been issued in Southern Asia and the Middle East to help gain access to events for locals wishing to file reports and photographs to the website, he said.

Munthe said he understood the need for an organisation like the United Kingdom Press Card Authority to enable the police and other agencies to know with whom they are dealing and suggested the passes weren’t issued to fool organisations.

“Nowhere on the pass does it suggest that the card is anything other than a Demotix press card,” Munthe told Press Gazette.

Demotix acts like an agency for citizen journalists across the globe by selling their photos to news organisations.

Last year, it won the independent media prize at the MediaGuardian Innovation awards – the MEGAs – after it supplied photos to news organisations across the world from the riots that followed the disputed elections in Iran.

Munthe said the cards could only be issued by journalists who had uploaded more than ten ‘carefully vetted’stories or sets of images to the Demotix website.

“We find that in many of the areas that we cover, places like Pakistan, the police try to use any excuse to prevent access and having this card can help legitimate reporting,” he added.

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