No bobby pictures please, we're British
New law could stop tourists, media photographers from snapping police
Tourists in London may have to think twice before snapping holiday pictures of the iconic British bobby.
A new anti-terrorism law went into effect Monday that could effectively bar photographers from taking pictures of police or military personnel in Britain.
Outside of Scotland Yard, the headquarters of London's Metropolitan Police, some 200 photographers gathered Monday to protest the measures.
Officials say the new laws are aimed at preventing terrorist groups from taking reconnaissance shots but photographers say they could be used to stop any pictures from being taken, especially images that depict police brutality or harassment.
"This law makes it much more difficult to photograph any kind of public demonstration or riot," said Marc Vallee, a protester and photographer. "The police are already suspicious of photographers and this just gives them more ammunition to stop us at our work."
Britain has come under fire in recent years for several measures that civil liberties groups say erode people's freedoms. In 2005, another law prohibited demonstrations around Parliament.
The new act makes it a crime to "elicit, publish or communicate information" about British police officers or military personnel.
Britain's Home Office said in a statement that the law is designed to protect police officers on counter-terrorism operations.
In many cases, officers could allow photographers to keep taking pictures. In other cases, they could ask them to stop or threaten them with arrest.
It is legal in Britain to take photographs in any public space, but photographers complain they have been harassed by police while working near airports, government buildings or railroad lines under the Terrorism Act of 2000, which gives police the right to stop, search and question anyone taking photographs.
"We've seen more and more limits being placed in this country on photographers and this new legislation will make things even more difficult for them," said Padraig Reidy of Index on Censorship, a group that monitors civil liberties.
According to the law, photographers who refuse to stop taking pictures after being warned by police could face arrest, up to 10 years in prison or unspecified fines.
With files from the Associated Press