Leading Britain’s Conversation reporter Charlotte Lynch was arrested last week by Hertfordshire Police while covering the Just Stop Oil protest, which crippled M25, England’s busiest motorway, garnering national attention.
From a road bridge over the M25, the radio journalist had been reporting on eco-zealot activists who were demonstrating when two police officers approached her. She showed them her press card and told them she was reporting on the demonstration, yet the officers handcuffed, seized her devices, and arrested her on “conspiracy to commit a public nuisance.”
She was put in a custody van and brought to a police station, where she was held for five hours.
“It was absolutely terrifying being in a cell with a pad for a bed in one corner and a metal toilet in the other,” she said, before adding, “I was just doing my job. What’s also terrifying is what this means for press freedom. It was blindingly obvious I was a reporter.”
Lynch called the ordeal “absolutely terrifying.”
According to BBC News, Hertfordshire Police chief constable Charlie Hall said the force’s officers had “been instructed to act as quickly as they can, using their professional judgement, to clear any possible protesters.”
Hall also said he “recognized the concerns over freedom of the press.”
“In advance of this, with regards to the arrest of the LBC journalist, the circumstances of the arrest have been internally reviewed,” he said.
The police chief further added, “Though the actions of the officers at the scene are understandable, in retrospect, an arrest would not have been necessary.”
“I haven’t been contacted by anybody from Hertfordshire Constabulary to apologize to me and to confirm that I will be de-arrested and my DNA removed from their records,” Lynch said.
Just Stop Oil, the environmental activist group based in the UK, uses civil resistance and direct actions to halt new fossil fuel licensing and production.
Last month, two of their protesters caused a global uproar when they threw tomato soup on Vincent van Gogh’s 1888 work The Arles Sunflowers in the National Gallery in London.
Former Shadow Attorney General Baroness Shami Chakrabarti told the LBC: “If the police are now going to start arresting journalists for conspiracy to commit a public nuisance then they are effectively shutting down the free press, the free media, in this country.”
That means the public “don’t get the opportunity to judge for themselves whether the police have policed a particular demonstration well or badly, or indeed whether the protesters behaved well or badly. So this is very, very serious.”
Just Stop Oil has been causing havoc throughout Britain for weeks.