Media and civil liberties groups have expressed alarm after the managers of an Olympic venue pledged to intercept and question anyone seen photographing or filming the site, even from public land, and defended security guards who wrongly tried to invoke terrorist laws to prevent footage being shot of the arena.Oh, here we go…
John Toner from the National Union of Journalists said he would seek an urgent meeting with managers of the O2, saying their tactics had no basis in law. "I'm stunned, and what they say is utterly outrageous," he said.But perhaps it was just a one-off incident?
As an experiment, the Guardian attempted to shoot video footage of the O2 arena from a public road on its southern edge, only a few minutes' walk from the main entrance.Give someone on minimum wage, with little education, a badge and a uniform, and what do you expect? It’s happened before, after all; numerous times with the police, who aren’t on minimum wage and who you’d expect to have a damned good grounding in the law!
Very quickly the reporter was challenged by O2 security guards, who made a series of demands with no basis in law. They ordered that the filming stop – "We've requested you to not do it because we don't like it" – and that they be shown any existing footage. Asked on what basis they could demand this, one replied: "It's under the terrorist law. We are an Olympic venue." Another added: "You have, for want of a better word, breached our security by videoing it [the O2]."
At one point they refused to allow the reporter to leave. One said: "It's gone too far for that."
While such overreach is not uncommon it is often followed by a management apology.Or, in the case of the police, after an embarrassing court case is lost…
But with the Olympics, it seems all is quite different!
An O2 spokesman defended the guards' approach.Wait. What?
He 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."No. It wasn’t. They had no basis in law to demand what they demanded, and no basis in law to stop anyone leaving public property!
What part of that don’t you understand?
Oh, wait. It seems the police don’t understand it any better themselves…
The incident at the O2 was eventually resolved after guards called police, who also asked to see the video footage, citing the Terrorism Act. The reporter was allowed to leave after neither he nor the police could properly operate the camera to replay the footage.Note that: not because he was right, and they realised he was right on the point of law, not because they realised they were making an embarrassing spectacle of themselves - because they couldn’t work the camera…!
Roll on the Olympics! It’s going to be tons of fun.