Reporters on the Job

Big Brother's Watching: For today's story about Britain's embrace of surveillance cameras (more than any other nation per capita), reporter Mark Rice-Oxley visited a control room in a basement bunker of a town hall (page 7). "The closed-circuit TV (CCTV) control centers are eery places: secretive, secure, and shimmering with dozens of TV screens," says Mark. "The scenes on the screens are ordinary: buses stuck in traffic, school kids larking about, mums and pushchairs. But all are oblivious that they are being watched by the officials with their fingertip control over the cameras on the street. It made me slightly uneasy when I emerged into daylight," he says. While Mark was concerned about the ethical questions, including invasion of privacy and being identified as a miscreant, most Britons he spoke to felt more cameras made them safer.

Mark is also much more aware of the cameras in his daily life. "Instead of cycling through a pedestrian zone, I walk my bike through it. My new bike. The one I had to buy when the old one was stolen. It was stolen from in front of the railway station. The station with all the cameras watching out for miscreants," he notes. Mark is still waiting for his stolen bicycle to be recovered by police.

David Clark Scott
World editor

Follow-up on a monitor story

• Abraham Mclaughlin reported recently on an increasingly assertive press in many African countries ("Feisty press under fire in Africa," Dec. 1, 2003) that was spurring worried governments to crack down with tougher restrictions.

Thursday, Zimbabwe's highest court endorsed legislation tightening government control over the media, ruling the laws do not violate free speech, Reuters reported. The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Independent Journalists Association of Zimbabwe that the laws were unconstitutional, ruling that journalism should be subject to statutory regulations like other professions.

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