The First Post : London police tell Austrian tourists to delete photos

Friday, April 17, 2009

London police tell Austrian tourists to delete photos

An Austrian photographer interested in public transport is told by Metropolitan police to delete pictures of buses, trains and stations

By Danielle Dsane | April 17, 2009

I've never had these experiences anywhere, never in the world, not even in Communist countries." This was what Klaus Matzka, a 69-year-old Austrian tourist, had to say of his experiences with the police on a recent visit to London. Matzka had come to England with his teenage son, but came to grief on an excursion to Walthamstow.

The north-eastern suburb is not an obvious place for a tourist, but he had his justification: "We typically crisscross cities from the end of railway terminals, we like to go to places not visited by other tourists. You get to know a city by going to places like this, not central squares. Buckingham Palace is also necessary, but you need to go elsewhere to get to know the city," Matzka told the Guardian.

But while in Walthamstow, Matzka, a retired cameraman who has an interest in modern architecture, was forced by two policemen to delete every photo with anything to do with transport. This included pictures of Vauxhall underground station, and of London's trademark red buses.

The two policemen also took down the details of the hotel where he and his son were staying, and their passport numbers. Now back in Vienna, Matzka said that this "nasty incident" had "killed interest in any further trips to the city".

"Google Street View is allowed to show any details of our cities on the world wide web. But a father and his son are not allowed to take pictures of famous London landmarks," he complained.

This is not the only recent incident in which the police have used their powers to act against people taking photographs in public spaces.

When Bob Quick paraded his top-secret document in front of Downing Street paparazzi, the police made twelve hurried arrests, 10 of whom were Pakistanis who'd come to England on student visas, over an alleged al-Qaeda terrorist plot.

The police, who have yet to release any evidence of bomb factories, pointed to photos the suspects had been taking of "crowded places" such as the Birdcage, a Manchester nightclub, and the Trafford Shopping Centre, as reasons for acting quickly to detain the men.