Published Wednesday, 03 August 2011
Lawyers for the news organisations claim handing over the material to the PSNI could have a "chilling effect" on the safety of camera crews and reporters.
The PSNI is seeking access to the unedited footage, which has not been broadcast, as part of ongoing investigations into serious violence in north and west Belfast on July 11 and 12.
Over 40 officers were injured as they came under attack from mobs throwing petrol bombs and other missiles. Vehicles were also hijacked and set alight and thousands of pounds of damage caused to property.
There is the safety issue in terms of journalists themselves, and the chilling effect these orders may have.
Judge Piers Grant was told in court on Wednesday that material released by the media, following a similar application last summer, was crucial in making 15 prosecutions.
A detective sergeant explained that police have less than ten hours of their own footage, which officers believe to be of poorer quality than potential press footage.
Among the images held by the PSNI are CCTV recordings from a police helicopter of a burning car being rolled into a crowd of people in Ardoyne.
The court heard the footage was of poor evidential value and that the press may have better quality images of the same scenes.
But with the case centring on competing claims between the public interest in convicting the troublemakers and the threat to the freedom of the press, opposition was set out.
A lawyer for UTV argued that the broadcaster did not want to be filming events "as an arm of the state".
He added: "There remains a fear that cameramen and journalists might be perceived as collecting on behalf of the police in the future."
A lawyer for the BBC also argued against the handing over of unseen footage and broadcasters being perceived as "auxiliary evidence gatherers for the police".
"That may impede the ability of an organisation such as the BBC to inform the population about what is going on in the streets of the city," he added.
After hearing from both sides in the application, Judge Grant reserved his decision.