Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Taking Pictures not Liberties

When the prime minister launched his Downing Street e-petitions in November 2006, some said he was barmy. Why would the government allow its citizens to design and upload petitions that could be harmful? Isn’t the government asking for trouble?

In spite of a recognised need to curb both urban traffic congestion and emissions, to say that there was a strong response to the anti-road pricing petition puts it mildly. Congestion charging went down like an unleaded balloon. 1,808,188 thought it a bad idea.

Whether you feel that petitions such as those are littered with cranks or whether you think there is strength in numbers in a form of mass communication that has never been so free of government control, there’s a petition recently lodged on the site that may appeal to the enthusiasts among those who read these pages.

That’s the one on the freedom to take photographs in public spaces, a freedom already under attack. PTEs are sniffy about photography in bus stations citing, wrongly I feel, data protection legislation designed to protect the individual from PTEs, not the other way round. As at 0658 hrs today, there were 39,319 signatures to the photography petition.

Someone I know reported an incident while taking photographs of buses recently in southern England. Imagine his surprise when he was asked by a police constable to desist, on the grounds that he might be taking pictures of children – this being at a time (mid-morning) when children were in schools; there was no school nearby, let alone anywhere where a class might be.

It’s right to have concerns about such issues and it’s right – critical – to exercise due care and diligence if photographing buses. But it’s all getting a little silly if people cannot enjoy their hobby.

It reminds me of the hazards of photography in communist Eastern Europe. People described how, while travelling behind the Iron Curtain, they were forced to use somewhat covert means to take hasty photographs of anything that looked remotely industrial or authoritarian, for fear of being locked up. The pictures probably didn’t come out too well, either. I trust the civil servants aren’t heading us in that direction in Britain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I note the various emails doing the rounds to get people to sign up to that congestion chargign petition didn;t state that it is likely that road tax would be abolished alongside the new pence per mile charges. Thus low users probably pay less!