Brazilian Journalist Detained By UK Border Police For Reading A Book About ISIS

from the don't-judge-a-book-by-its-cover dept

Just last week, we reported on how a British human rights activist was held at London’s Heathrow airport by UK border police, and risked prison for failing to hand over his passwords. Now we learn from the Independent about a Brazilian journalist, Diogo Bercito, who was detained at Manchester airport for reading a book during his flight there:

He was reading The Isis Apocalypse, by former adviser to the US State Department on terrorism issues Will McCants. It explores the ideology of the terrorist organisation and is often used as a reference for journalists and researchers.

That seems a perfectly reasonable thing for a journalist to be reading in order to understand the background to the Manchester attack, which Bercito had been sent to cover for his employer, the Folha de São Paulo newspaper. But it was apparently enough for the border police to pull him in for questioning. His passport and press credentials were taken away, and he waited for an hour before he was interviewed. The police officers then explained exactly why Bercito had been singled out for special attention: another passenger on his flight had felt “uncomfortable” about his choice of reading matter.

To be fair, you can’t really blame the Manchester border police for following up on that complaint, given the terrorist attack that had taken place in the city just 24 hours before. But it’s a sad reflection of the effectiveness of the authorities’ scaremongering that some members of the public feel the need to report someone because he or she was reading about ISIS. What next: reporting people to the police for watching TV reports about terrorism?

After a few questions, Bercito was allowed to continue with his journey, with the friendly warning not to read his book in public — in case other, similarly-nervous people thought he was a terrorist — as well as a less-friendly threat:

Mr Brecito said they then returned his passport to him, but warned that “if they wanted, they could keep him for a long time”.

And they’re right — as David Miranda discovered the hard way.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Comments on “Brazilian Journalist Detained By UK Border Police For Reading A Book About ISIS”

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41 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Still one step ahead...

No. To have “wrong” thoughts, is called “thought crime” and is considered a form of “precrime”. I.e. You’ve not committed a crime, but because you are thinking of things associated with crime, we are going to preemptively charge you with a crime and lock you away.

Such BS is not a part of any real democracy. Then again, the world seems hellbent on returning to authoritarian regimes to appease a dead man, so I’d imagine it’s only a matter of time before we get thought scanners installed everywhere.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Still one step ahead...

Close, but not quite.

To have "wrong" thoughts is indeed called "thought crime", but it is not "pre-crime" or "thinking of things associated with crime".

"Thought crime" is the idea that having certain thoughts is itself a crime. It’s not "you’re thinking about murder, and murder is a crime, so we’re going to arrest you"; it’s "you’re thinking that the Supreme Leader might not be perfect, and thinking that the Supreme Leader is not perfect is a crime, so we’re going to arrest you".

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: Still one step ahead...

I think you’re thinking about ISIS, which is making me uncomfortable, so I’m going to alert the authorities.
But wait, if I complain that you’re thinking about ISIS, that means I’m thinking about ISIS also. The authorities will arrest me too!
But then when the arrest me, they’ll be thinking about ISIS also, so they’ll have to be arrested!

Anonymous Coward says:

“What next: reporting people to the police for watching TV reports about terrorism?”

The dumb thing is that we could do with a lot less of people watching TV reports about terrorism. If people weren’t watching TV reports about it, many people wouldn’t even know terrorism is much of thing at all (which it isn’t since it’s actually quite rare). And we’d have a lot less fearful populace.

Anonymous Coward says:

Blame the police

To be fair, you can’t really blame the Manchester border police for following up on that complaint, given the terrorist attack that had taken place in the city just 24 hours before.

Of course I can blame them, and do. Whether to detain a person based on their choice of reading material is entirely their decision, and unless it’s a how-to guide on terrorism they should know it’s unreasonable. Being able to act rationally in crazy circumstances is a major part of their job.

That One Guy (profile) says:

"If we were more bored, your day would have been REALLY bad..."

Mr Brecito said they then returned his passport to him, but warned that "if they wanted, they could keep him for a long time".

Pity, they were doing so well until that point(other than making him wait an hour before getting to him).

Get complaint, do simple investigation to see if there’s any validity to it, see that there’s none and let him go on his way. That they just couldn’t resist not leaving him with a threat like that rather torpedoes the whole ‘professional conduct’ thing and has me suspecting that it was dumb luck on his part that he got out unscathed.

The fact that that is not an empty threat just makes it worse.

DarkKnight (profile) says:

Really?

Perhaps this bloke should’ve read this as an e-book, on his phone, making it next to impossible for anyone to clearly see what he was reading? The bloke looked “Hispanic” or “non-white” and so, that made him appear to perhaps be Middle Eastern, because let’s be honest, if this had been a Donald Trump appearing bloke reading the same book, there would not have been an issue with his reading material and thus, no problem with the authorities?

DarkKnight (profile) says:

Really?

Perhaps this bloke should’ve read this as an e-book, on his phone, making it next to impossible for anyone to clearly see what he was reading? The bloke looked “Hispanic” or “non-white” and so, that made him appear to perhaps be Middle Eastern, because let’s be honest, if this had been a Donald Trump appearing bloke reading the same book, there would not have been an issue with his reading material and thus, no problem with the authorities?

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