Moment press agency photographer is manhandled out of Tory conference by security guards

An award-winning photographer is set to make a formal complaint after he was manhandled and ejected from the Conservative Party conference hall today by security guards who ‘got the wrong end of the stick.’ 

Tolga Akmen claims he felt singled out after he was the only snapper to be ‘refused entry into the hall for Prime Minister Liz Truss‘s speech’ at the ICC venue in Birmingham. 

The staff photojournalist at the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) told MailOnline how he tried to find another entrance but realised he was being followed and that his description was ‘being radioed to others.’ 

He said his accreditation was then ‘ripped from his neck’ and that he was chucked out – before being forced to wait in the rain wearing only his T-shirt while another photographer fetched his equipment for him. 

A Conservative Party spokesperson has since said there ‘may have been a misunderstanding’, while Mr Akmen said he is still awaiting a formal apology.  

He said his numerous attempts to contact a press officer fell on deaf ears, and that he only received a text apology from the conference director as he made his way back to London on a coach, in which they claimed security had got ‘the wrong end of the stick.’

He added that he is ‘most likely’ to pursue a formal complaint. 

He said: ‘There was no need for manhandling. We could have talked about it. I didn’t try to get in where I wasn’t allowed to.

‘I don’t see anyone else being told off and I do not know why they picked on me.

Tolga Akmen pictured outside the Birmingham Venue where the Conservative Party conference took place

Tolga Akmen pictured outside the Birmingham Venue where the Conservative Party conference took place

‘I happen to be someone who argued back, and they don’t (take) kindly to that. We should have access and are accredited media. I showed them my press card.

‘I have never had anything like this happen in my life. Weird behaviour, really strange.’

Mr Akmen said he showed his press pass to security and tried to enter via the closest entrance, but was refused access and was given no alternative points from which to enter.

Mr Akmen said he and colleagues then walked towards another entrance before he heard a security guard radioing his description, saying he had been acting ‘aggressively and needed to be stopped’.

That same guard, he claims, followed him then ‘singled him out’ from the other journalists and ‘started pushing and dragging’ him away with other security.

He said EPA had raised the matter with the Conservative Party.

A Conservative Party spokesman said: ‘We are aware there was an incident earlier today where a photographer was removed by venue security staff.

‘We believe there may have been a misunderstanding and have been in contact with the photographer.’

Mr Akmen confirmed Conservative Campaign Headquarters had been in touch to apologise, adding that he was waiting for a formal apology to be sent.

It comes after dramatic video footage shared online on Wednesday showed Mr Akmen being escorted by three security guards to an exit of the ICC. 

A bystander commented: ‘A photographer has just been dragged off the conference centre floor by security.’

The photographer is heard to plead: ‘Just leave me be. I’m a member of the media. Can you please stop this please?

‘What are you doing? I promise you, I didn’t do anything.’

Meanwhile, officials can be heard threatening to call the police. 

A man in a suit is heard saying: ‘I’d go with him now, otherwise the police will get involved but go now, we’ll try and sort it out.’

Speaking to the Metro, Mr Akmen said security had claimed he was a ‘threat’ after he was not allowed into the conference hall where the Prime Minister was giving her keynote address to delegates.

He told the publication: ‘I was entering the conference hall for the speech after photographing the PM on the hotel bridge but a security guard didn’t let me in from the closest door to the hall and I argued briefly that I’m going to the photographers’ area.


The moment was captured by a journalist who uploaded the video to social media

The moment was captured by a journalist who uploaded the video to social media

‘I was given no explanation or alternative directions. I left the gate to go to another one but realised the same security guard (was) following me and radioing my description and describing me as a threat.’

He added: ‘When I got to another door there were three security guards waiting for me and they grabbed me by the arms, ripped the accreditation off my chest and started dragging me and pushing me until they threw me out to the pavement without my jacket or rest of my gear.

‘I had to wait in the rain with my T-shirt for an hour an half until a colleague could get my gear to me.’

Mr Akmen won the Getty Images Young Photographer of the Year 2016 and the Fixation News Photographer of the Year 2019 awards, his website states.

West Midlands Police said it was aware of the incident but it was dealt with security staff.

‘No offences were committed and no arrests were made,’ they added. 

Tolga Akmen and the Conservative Party have been contacted for comment.

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