Greater Manchester Police today rejected suggestions its officers were targeting a magazine photographer who claims he has been assaulted by officers three times while doing his job.
Stuart Littleford, editor of the Government and Public Sector Journal, has filed three complaints against the force, including two in the last four weeks.
He says he now fears doing his job in the Manchester area.
But GMP Chief Inspector Rob Tinsley, said today: “I would vehemently refute any suggestion that any officers have or are specifically targeting any one individual, regardless of their occupation.”
He added: “The media plays a vital role in assisting with our appeals, reassuring communities and keeping residents updated about on-going initiatives and campaigns.
“We recognise and support freedom of press.”
The Chief Inspector’s assurance came despite GMP having to remind its officers that they must not stop the press from taking photographs in public places after an incident involving Littleford in November.
He claims his hands and legs were injured by a police officer while he was trying to cover another accident in Oldham.
The force’s Professional Standards Branch is investigating that incident and this week’s, following complaints by Littleford. The above picture has been supplied to Press Gazette and is understood to have been taken by a passer by. It shows the incident on 16 January in which Littleford says he was booked for obstruction after approaching a police officer at an incident scene carrying a camera.
A GMP spokesman said: “Professional Standards Branch investigators have tried to secure Mr Littleford’s full co-operation throughout the on-going investigation.
“We take all complaints about officers’ conduct extremely seriously and we endeavour to investigate all such matters thoroughly and fairly.
“We respect the rights of journalists and guidance has recently been re-iterated to all officers and staff about journalistic rights.
“This guidance is frequently delivered as part of a media training package to officers and was also recently re-enforced to all staff within the Road Policing Unit.”
But Littleford hit back: “If they’re giving out all this guidance, how come officers are behaving the way they are? Is it the officers don’t understand it – or choose to ignore it? It’s got to be one or the other.
“At every incident, the officers involved have deliberately moved around to prevent any photographs being taken.
“I have shown my press card and told them my occupation but this has made no difference at all.
“All were fully aware I was a bone fida journalist just trying to do my job. This is intimidation and bullying at it’s worst.”
Metropolitan Police guidelines state: “Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.”