Independent photographers are calling again for answers on why they have been banned from covering Brexit in the lead up to the UK leaving the European Union.
Number 10 chose to use only the prime minister’s official photographer to take images of Boris Johnson signing the Withdrawal Agreement, and the images of Johnson striking a gong at 11pm on January 31 to mark the moment Brexit happened was also taken by his own lensman, with no independent photographers from news outlets allowed.
The UK Picture Editors Guild – representing around 100 photographers – complained about the incidents earlier this month, but have yet to receive a reply.
In the letter, the Guild said it feared the “motive” behind using an in-house photographer was to “exclude” the press.
“I am sure you would agree restrictions to the freedom of press to record events for posterity and for daily consumption by the British public are unhealthy,” wrote Guild chair Alan Sparrow.
“Events such as the signing of the Brexit treaty are of historical significance and should be accessible today and in the future.”
Ex-Metro picture editor Sparrow said that news outlets were looking for reassurances from Downing Street that the recent omissions were anomalies.
“It might be that they are just backlogged and the Guild’s email to them hasn’t reached the top of the pile yet,” he told PA news agency, “but we would like confirmation that what we are doing works and that we can continue to operate that way.”
Under arrangements established for “some decades”, Sparrow said two photographers are drafted on a rota basis to photograph key events involving the PM.
The duo then send their snaps to those within their association as part of pool operation, sending the images worldwide often within minutes.
But on this instance a photographer who covers official events for the PM was the only photographer permitted.
The photographs were then placed on social networking site Flickr, and news outlets wanting them were able to download and use the images.
Some media outlets refused to use the No 10 pictures at the time, as a result of news photographers being barred.
The concern follows a walkout by Westminster journalists on February 3 – the same day the Guild wrote its letter – after it became apparent some reporters were being excluded from a briefing by the PM’s chief Brexit negotiator.
The likes of the BBC and ITV refused to broadcast Johnson’s Brexit day message after he opted to have it filmed in-house, rather than allow an independent organisation to record and distribute the footage.
Downing Street has been contacted for comment.