Rioters turned fury on TV camera crews

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The Independent Online
Camera crews and photographers were deliberately targeted during Wednesday night's riots - an increasing feature of civil disturbances.

Among the victims, a BBC crew were kicked and beaten by a gang of black and white youths who told them: "That's what happens if you come filming here". And Sky News's Gary Blayer was felled by a kick in the back and then further assaulted as he tried to keep hold of his camera. As youths ran off with his equipment, he was taken to hospital where he was treated for severe bruising and shock.

Two men working for London News Network were attacked by a gang which trashed their link-van equipment.

Camera crews, photographers and journalists have increasingly become the focus of attacks ever since the law was changed to compel them to hand over unused footage and film to police, so that officers can, for example, identify rioters and looters.

Most news organisations resist the move until compelled to by a court order - nevertheless those involved in disturbances now view journalists as an arm of the law.

The problem is further compounded by the fact that the police themselves put their own photographers on the streets and rioters do not distinguish between the two.

Yesterday, Simon Cole, managing editor of Sky News, said: "It is increasing dangerous for cameramen at any event where there is violent confrontation. We are getting very worried about it and are now actively looking at ways in which we can give them greater protection."

Simon Harris, senior news editor of London News Network, said: "If camera crews are seen filming they very quickly become the target of aggression. Clearly the policy of forcing news organisations to hand over material does not help."

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