Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

Curated knowledge, trenchant insights & witty bon mots

Oh, to be a documentary filmmaker in Scotland

Richard Phinney tells a disheartening tale about how seriously Scottish police take breaches of the peace … at least ones involving the Donald Trump organization when it’s trying to build a controversial golf course.

Hard to summarize, but I’ll pull out a few grafs to give you the flavour. From the Sept. 28 Globe and Mail:

I’m no fearless war correspondent, but in 20 years as a journalist I have worked in countries with unsavoury regimes – Cuba, Guinea, Burma and Afghanistan – and tackled controversial issues for the BBC, CBC and others. While I’ve had guns pointed my way on a few occasions, I had never, until this summer, spent time in a jail cell.

It happened less than 40 miles from home in the northeast of Scotland, in the oil boom city of Aberdeen.

According to Britain’s National Union of Journalists, my imprisonment with a co-worker was “one of the first cases in this country of journalists being arrested for just carrying out interviews to establish the truth and hold people to account.”

You might imagine that to make history in this way, I must have been uncovering sensitive national secrets. In fact, I was covering a golf story.

Essentially, a local landowner didn’t want to sell out to Donald Trump, who is building a golf course in the area, which has some of the last true wilderness in the United Kingdom. Phinney and Anthony Baxter were working on a documentary film. They had interviewed one individual and were about to interview another area resident when the cops arrived.

Because they didn’t stop filming, they were arrested and spent four hours in custody. They were fingerprinted and had DNA samples taken.

The next day, I learned how easy it is to get a criminal record in Scotland. A criminal charge of “breach of the peace” can be brought if any member of the public is “alarmed, or upset.”

But the use of the breach of the peace law against journalists seems to be a new departure. We can only assume (the police did not tell us) that someone at the Trump organization complained to police after we asked questions about what was clearly an embarrassing subject.

Wowzers. Big freedom of expression fail back in the Old Sod.

Wed, September 29 2010 » Main Page, Media