Saturday, 27 November 2010

Official News Sources and Citizen Journalists

Met Forced to Admit Mounted Police Charged Protesters at Wednesday's Anti-Cuts Demo

Scotland Yard has been forced to retract its statement about the use of mounted police charges during Wednesday's anti-Higher Education cuts demonstration. As reported in the Guardian, on Thursday a Met spokesperson categorically stated that "Police horses were involved in the operation, but that didn't involve charging the crowd."

Since then footage shot by a protester has surfaced that clearly shows mounted police charging without warning into a crowd containing school children, at least two mothers who had come to collect children and a pregnant woman.

Somehow the mainstream media managed to miss this and the other mounted police charge.

Citizen Journalists and Agenda Setting

Coming off the back of the citizen journalist footage that forced the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate whether the Met had misled the public over the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests in April last year, this highlights the value to protesters of on-scene video. After Ian Tomlinson was attacked by a policeman on his way home from work 'anonymous sources', 'eye-witnesses' and police sources were employed to set the agenda in the right-wing press. Sky News, for example: "Police said they were pelted with missiles believed to include bottles as they tried to save his life." Or this headline from the Evening Standard (now mysteriously disappeared from their website, captured here):

Without the video shot by protesters that clearly showed a police officer beating Tomlinson before pushing him to the ground this may have remained the accepted truth of the events that led to his death.

This demonstrates the power of authorities, including the police, to set the agenda in the mainstream media's reporting of events, as campaigning journalist Heather Brooke discusses in relation to the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in the video below. 

Activist video and citizen journalism clearly has an increasing role to play in the countering of this sort of information control by authorities and institutions. Techniques first developed during the anti-road protest and environmental movements of the 1990s (see here from page 81, for example) are now, through mobile video technology, available to greater numbers of people and have been successful in shifting the public discourse about the policing of demonstrations, to a certain extent.

Viva Camcordistas!

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