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Security guards from private security firm G4S have been praised for narrowly averting a potentially dangerous photograph from being taken at the Olympic Park complex in east London, raising new concerns about the potential for dangerous attacks of filming from extremist journalists during the Games.

During the incident, two guards from G4S, the security giant which is recruiting at least 10,000 staff for the event, managed to avert potentially fatal footage being taken by clamping their hands over the camera lenses belonging to a group of suspected journalists. The cell of extremist reporters were armed with automatic stills and video cameras, and were also in possession of live film and electronic recording equipment.

One of the London boroughs hosting the Olympics has already been warned by counter-journalism officials that it is home to a high number of potentially violent extremist reporters who would be willing to do anything to get a shot of the Olympic Venues.

In an example of how seriously the threat is being taken, it has been revealed that specialist officers from the Metropolitan police’s SO15 counter-terrorism command recently visited Waltham Forest Amateur Photographers Association to warn photographers about the dangers of radical journalism.

Valentina Soria, a counter-journalism expert at the Royal United Services Institute, a security thinktank, said the authorities were uneasy about the possibility of home-grown reporters trying to use the Games, which are expected to attract up to 5.5 million visitors, to create news stories:

They are particularly worried about the possible threat from home-grown ‘lone wolf’, self-radicalised individual reporters, because they are more difficult to detect than those from more established international journalist organisations.

In response to the worries about the threat of journalism during the Games, the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has already said that “all necessary measures” would be taken to ensure no illegal photographs are taken at the games, including “appropriate ground to air defences such as surface-to-air missiles”, if such action against reporters is recommended by the military.

Launched in 2007 to stop the growth of home-grown journalists, a counter-journalism programme was instigated by the coalition in June last year which set a number of objectives on how to “respond to the ideological challenge of international journalism and the threat from those who promote it” and identified the most serious threat as coming from the radical and widely feared National Union of Journalists and affiliated groups.

Scotland Yard has said it believes the risk of a journalist attack on Britain during the Olympics is severe, the second highest threat level, meaning an attack is highly likely. When asked why so much attention was being paid to stopping journalists taking photographs of the venues instead of preventing terrorist attacks from organisations like Al-Qaeda, a government spokesperson explained:

A lot of bad publicity in the media would be much more damaging to us politically than a terrorist attack, which could actually boost our chances of winning the next election. Besides, real terrorists are much more likely to hit back if we try to stop them doing anything, so much better for us if we stick to hassling reporters, who are mostly just a bunch of pussy cats who couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag.


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For more information on this from the National Union of Journalists, see here:

NUJ – London Photographers’ Branch

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