Energy giant npower has placed an injunction upon a EPUK member photographing the alleged dumping of waste fuel ash into an Oxfordshire beauty spot.
The Radley Lakes have seen increasing protests over recent weeks over allegations that Npower is dumping power station ash in the lakes which are home to protected species such as otters and kingfishers.
Adrian Arbib, a professional photographer and EPUK member based in Oxford, was handed the injunction on Thursday by two solicitors and four black clad security guards wearing high visibility waistcoats and with their faces covered by what appear to be either scarves or semi-balaclavas. You can read the full injunction here
Arbib is approached by a solicitor flanked by security guards. While this footage was shot before Arbib was served with the injunction, we have pixelated the solicitor’s face.
The security guards are understood to have been provided by private security company Shercurity, although npower appeared reluctant to confirm this.
At the time Arbib, an experienced photographer who has covered protests like these for seventeen years, who was covering the protests for the Guardian and BBC Wildlife, was standing on public property, having just photographed trees in the park being cut down at the park by npower contractors.
As the security guards approach, he can be heard on the video soundtrack reassuring them: “I’ve no interest in taking pictures of you guys, alright ? None whatsoever.”
During the incident, which was recorded by Arbib on video, the solicitors repeatedly refused to say who they were working on behalf of.
In the clip, the security guards are seen videoing the serving of the injunctions.
Arbib told EPUK: “I have been covering these protests for some time now, so I know the security guards were unlikely to lay a finger on me. But had I been younger or less experienced, I would have found it an intimidating experience”.
Despite Arbib identifying himself as a press photographer, and producing his NUJ press card, the solicitors refused to comment further, repeating that he should refer to the terms of the injunction. Shortly after Arbib was told to stop filming, which he agreed to do.
Arbib produces his press card while being filmed by the Npower security guards
The injunction, which initially runs for two months, orders both six named protesters and “those acting in concert with the protesters” to not photograph or video “protected persons or their vehicles”
“Nothing to do with the press”
When initially contacted by EPUK, npower said that the injunction only applied to protesters, and not bona fide press photographers.
“This is nothing to do with the press”, said a spokesperson. “ This is to do with the named persons on that injunction. It is not intended to bind the media in any shape or form”
However, when pressed to explain why a credentialled press photographer had been served with an injunction by their solicitor, npower said: “The injunction does not stop media reporting. It is just designed to prevent any details being published (photos and personal details) which might lead to the identification of individuals working at the site.”
However, this would appear to contradict the wording of the injunction, which prevents “the Protesters….photographing or videoing the Protected Persons”. Earlier in the injunction, the term “protesters” is defined to include “any person who has been given notice of the terms of this Order”.
Indeed it is difficult to imagine how npower could not “restrict media reporting” since Arbib or any other photographers served with the injunction will now not be allowed to photograph any of the company’s activities at the site.
Arbib is served with the injunction
It was not possible at the time of going to press to ask Npower why their explanation appeared not to match the wording of the injunction, and it was unclear at the time of going to press whether the security guards will interpret this as a blanket ban on photography at the site.
Security guards “masked for own protection”
Today, npower claimed the security guards obscured their faces “for their own protection”. A spokesperson claimed: “It may look intimidating, but they have the right to protect their identity.”
However, the two solicitors made no attempt to hide their identity, and did not appear to feel threatened by Arbib.
The same spokeperson alleged that workers at the site have been “harassed by protesters taking pictures and number plates and threatening to find out where people live, in a very menacing manner”.
Npower had lodged fifteen witness statements in court alleging harassment of its employees and contractors.
“This is a serious case of protecting our property, protecting the people who work for us, and making sure they are not subject to harassment”, she said.
However, she made it clear that professional news photographers had never been involved in any such activity.
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