Last year's Heathrow 'Camp for Climate Action' annoyed press considerably by restricting access to what was, after all, land that the occupiers did not own and had no legal rights over. In an attempt, presumably, to curtail potentially hostile coverage by the evil right-wing MSM, the organisers modelled their press policy on Kim Jong-il and turned the field into a little bit of Pyongang. For sure, Government and BAA are guilty of media manipulation and are bang-to-rights serial fibbers where LHR, traffic and emissions are concerned, but three wrongs don't make a right.
If this is a serious environmental debate - and as someone who lives on this planet and under the flightpath I certainly think it should be - then facts rather than propaganda are what matters, and if they're inconvenient to someone that's just tough shit. Any obstruction of open debate is self-defeating and likely to engender an attitude that all parties are posturing, vested-interested liars so best disregarded completely.
This is possibly not the message Camp for Climate Action intended to convey. I know of a number of journalists, who whilst sympathetic to the aims boycotted the event because they considered Camp for Climate Action's media policies destructive and unsustainable and their emissions on access toxic. This is what is known in the tabloids as an 'own goal'. It's clearly ridiculous to prevent coverage of a supposedly awareness-raising event because you're worried the Mail will portray you as a bunch of bolshie workshy anarchist hippy troublemakers. Unless of course that's what you are.
However it seems Climate Action still haven't learned that PR ineptitude comparable with npower's attempts to suppress the press does not help your cause. John Toner of the NUJ has now written the following open letter regarding this year's planned camp.
The Media Team 25.07.08
The Camp for Climate Action
Dear Media Team,
Last year I wrote to you raising our concerns over your restrictions on media access to your Climate Camp at Heathrow Airport.
I am writing to you again, at the request of many of our members, to protest at your arrangements for this year’s Camp at Kingsnorth.
In a similar way to last year’s procedures, you intend to restrict the media to “facilitated tours” of the camp between 11am and 1pm. To limit access in this way severely hampers the ability of the media to provide objective and accurate coverage.
You then go on to state that journalists will be permitted to take part in the camp outside the two-hour tour, provided they sign a code of conduct. You might be aware that journalists are already governed by codes of conduct, including that of the NUJ, which you can read here
We consider it unacceptable that you should seek to control journalists in this way.
You also intend to issue a “press badge” showing name and affiliation. You should be aware that professional journalists will be able to identify themselves by producing their National Press Card. Many freelance journalists will not have any affiliation, as they are not working on behalf of any particular media company.
As an organisation that espouses openness and transparency, you risk accusations of hypocrisy if you follow such procedures restricting the media.
It is not too late to change this. Would you please reconsider your media access policy while there is still time?
National Union of Journalists
Personally I'll be staying well away from the Camp, just as I did last year, and I am a paid-up hippy troublemaker.