Photographers condemn rules barring pictures from back of Downing Street as 'new low' in 'stage managed' election - Press Gazette

Photographers condemn rules barring pictures from back of Downing Street as 'new low' in 'stage managed' election

Rules preventing pictures being taken at the back of Downing Street have been described by photographers as a "new low" in an election campaign of "attempted stage management and control of the media".

Last week, it emerged that professional photographers operating at the back entrance of Downing Street, on Horse Guards Road, will be moved on by police.

According to The Daily Telegraph, the area is used by Prime Ministers, MPs and officials to “discreetly enter and exit No. 10”.

The Telegraph said: “It allows them to avoid facing questions from the press pack camped opposite the front entrance, and avoiding being photographed going through the famous front door.

“When Prime Ministers lose the election it is traditionally the site where removal vans turn up to pick up their furniture.”

The area that would be used by photographers is owned by Royal Parks and could in the past be operated in with a permit.

According to the Telegraph, the old system was temporarily suspended and then redrawn after Prince George's birth "amid concerns over privacy".

The new rules do not allow photography at the rear of Downing Street without consent from Royal Parks. And the body has rejected photographer requests for the ban to be lifted during the election period.

Lynne Anderson, deputy chief executive of the News Media Association, said: “Restricting the ability of news media photographers to do their jobs in a publicly accessible area, with the threat that they will be moved on by the police if they do, constitutes a direct attack on press freedom.

“The area concerned behind No 10 Downing Street is likely to be of critical importance in telling the story of general election and photographers must be able to access it and take pictures. There is no legitimate reason to restrict access and the Royal Parks must lift this ban immediately.”

Paul Jarrett, secretary of the WPA – which represents Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Press Association, Reuters and Getty Images – said: “The attempted stage management and control of the media during this General Election has been unprecedented in this country, but trying to restrict  the news media  into accepting less access than the general public are afforded reaches a new low.

“Photographers, agencies and news gathering organisations have a right to do their legitimate job unhindered and this latest intrusion into press freedoms is unacceptable”

John Toner, National Union of Journalists freelance organiser, said: "There is a very definite public interest in reporting who is entering or leaving Downing Street. We are entitled to know who the Prime Minister is talking to, even more so in the coming weeks when a hung parliament seems the most likely outcome of the election.

"The future government of this country should not be stitched up by political leaders secretly going in and out of No 10 for discussions behind closed doors."

A Royal Parks spokesperson said: “We make it very clear to the media that photography for commercial and newsgathering purposes at the rear of Downing Street is restricted.

"Media facilities for the election are available elsewhere including in other parts of The Royal Parks as well as in Downing Street and Whitehall.”