Bystander photos, videos could deter more attacks

I read with concern about the proposal by the Ministry of Home Affairs to ban communications in the form of photos or videos during terror incidents (Bill to give police more powers in a terror attack; Feb 28).

Incidents of safety and security are matters of public interest.

It is critical that updates regarding terror or other incidents are communicated and disseminated in a timely manner. This can help to raise the alarm and reduce collateral damage.

Terror incidents may also be planned to take place simultaneously at different locations.

Without photos and videos to assess the type and magnitude of an incident, members of the public would lose the ability to detect similar incidents about to take place at another location and sound the alarm.

For example, in the Boston Marathon bombings in the United States in 2013, investigators were initially unable to identify the suspect even after repeatedly reviewing surveillance footage from a nearby restaurant.

The big break came from a photo taken by a spectator watching the race from across the street.

Using that photo, police were able to cross reference with surveillance footage and zero in on the suspect before he could do further harm.

The cons of imposing a blanket ban on all photo and video communications during a terror incident far outweighthe benefits.

Has any other country implemented such extreme measures?

If the concern is about compromising live police operations, the authorities can set up a cordon around sensitive areas of operation, as may already be the practice.

The Minister for Communications and Information can also direct broadcasters not to stream live footage of such operations.

Ivan Teo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2018, with the headline 'Bystander photos, videos could deter more attacks'. Print Edition | Subscribe