I've just heard the news that some German tourists were ordered by New South Wales police to delete their tourists photos of the security fence erected in Sydney as part of the security measures around the APEC leaders' summit there.
I can't believe how ridiculous the police are getting over this! Their explanation for this measure – one they plan to enforce more widely – was that they didn't want protesters to be taking photos of the security fence, or 'The Wall' as Sydneysiders are calling it, for 'reconnaissance' purposes. Police claim that protesters are carrying out this 'recco' to find weaknesses in the fence that they can target in order to break through and disrupt the APEC meeting.
While I have no idea whether the protesters would want to carry out such scouting or even want to break through the cordon, I think the police ban on photos of The Wall is ridiculous and futile because, in this time of quick and easy communication via the internet and mobile phone, the photos are already out there and there's no way the police can stop them!
When I first read the news, I immediately wondered how many photos of The Wall and other security measures have already been posted on flickr or other websites, sharing tools and blogs. A quick search shows that there's a flickr group for photos relating to APEC's Sydney meeting, including shots of the fence and security measures around the summit. Although it only had 30 photos as of time of posting, I'm sure it will grow. There are heaps more photos on flickr, as a search of the combination of the tags APEC, Sydney, security and protests will reveal.
But I'm also angry that police should be stopping people from taking photos of what is so clearly visible to the public, and in the public domain. It is such an overreaction by the police, but more importantly a dangerous limitation on our freedoms – to observe, document, report and broadcast on the actions of the state. I think it is important to kick-up a fuss on such things, otherwise the next thing we'll find is police trying to stop – on similarly baseless arguments – legal observers and other witnesses to police actions against protesters from taking photos, documenting police actions and compiling evidence for possible future complaints of police assault or misconduct.
That is why I'm publishing the photo of The Wall here – an act of defiance and protest. Let's see the police trying to ask blogger, flickr, and a host of others to remove this photos from the internet! It's the least I can do all these miles away here in Melbourne.
[Image of the security fence by mpesce (cc) of flickr]