Olympic site in filming dispute
17 April 2012
by Stephen Gregory
The managers of the O2 Olympic venue in Greenwich have vowed to intercept and question anyone taking photographs of the arena, sparking dismay from the media and civil liberties groups alike.
Those in charge of the venue have said they will intercept and question anyone seen taking photographs of the site, even if they are on public land.
Security guards working on the site have also been defended after they wrongly tried to use terrorist laws to stop people taking pictures.
The actions of the O2, which will host events such as basketball and artistic gymnastics, have raised concerns about the general freedom which will be afforded to the media during the Olympiad in August, and that photographers and even members of the public looking to catch the event on camera could be harassed for entirely legal activities.
Inside Olympic venues there are strict rules on photography, but the authorities have no right as it stands to prohibit the press or ordinary people from taking photos of the venues from public land.
John Toner from the National Union of Journalists commented: "I'm stunned, and what they say is utterly outrageous."
During an experiment by the Guardian, security guards are said to have ordered filming of the site to be stopped “because we don’t like it” and claimed their demands were valid “under the terrorist law”.
In defence of the guards a spokesman for the O2 said: "On the basis that [the reporter was] filming areas of the O2 that are not usually of interest to the public, our security staff's approach and handling of the situation was entirely appropriate."
Meanwhile Corinna Ferguson, legal officer for the civil right campaign group Liberty, said: "There's no power stopping a person taking photographs on public land, let alone to arrest them or seize property, without reasonable suspicion they've committed an offence. Police officers or security guards who get this wrong could well find themselves in trouble with the law.
"With all eyes on London during the Olympics what a terrible message it would send if Londoners and tourists face harassment from the authorities merely for snapping the capital's landmarks."