Skip navigation

Pages tagged "Free Press"

Journalists boycott Bristol Mayor's Press Briefings after Local Democracy Reporters are banned

By Andrew Allison, Chief Executive 

Bristol's Labour Mayor, Marvin Rees, is so concerned about climate change that he decided to accept an invitation to fly 9,000 miles to Canada to give a short TED talk on, erm, climate change. Rees is hardly the only hypocrite in the world. Harry and Meghan have a habit of bleating about climate change whilst continuing to accept invitations to fly in private jets. Hollywood actors have been known to fly in their private jets to accept awards for their work promoting climate change. It's a long list, but what has rightly annoyed journalists in Bristol is that Local Democracy Reporters (LDRs) have been banned from attending the mayor's press briefings. 

Alex Seabrook, a LDR who covers local democracy for Bristol Live and the Bristol Post, asked a question about the irony of the mayor flying such a long way to give such a short talk. A perfectly reasonable question and part of the LDR remit of holding UK authorities to account.

For having the "audacity" to do his job, he was told by Saskia Konynenburg, the council's Head of Communications, that he was not a “journalist from a newspaper” so didn’t have the right to ask the question. When another LDR asked to attend the mayor's next press briefing, his request was turned down. 

Journalists and media organisations, including the BBC and ITV, have supported their colleagues by deciding to boycott the mayor's press briefings until further notice. Good on them. A free press, asking politicians awkward questions, is an essential part of an open and free society. Council officials, such as Ms Konynenburg, are paid for by local taxpayers. They are public servants. One cannot serve the public by banning reporters because one doesn't like the questions they are asking. 

But I can't say that I am surprised by this high-handed response from the council. It is typical of most councils the length and breath of the country. Trying to get information out of them, even using the Freedom of Information Act, can be like pulling teeth. If there is something they don't want you to know, they will do everything in their power to prevent you from finding out. I successfully campaigned for a change in the law which gave residents the right to record, tweet, and blog about the meetings they were attending. Some councils were determined to prevent residents from having this right which was why the law had to be changed. 

Bristol City Council must allow Local Democracy Reporters to do their job, and as the council has managed to annoy every local journalist, a U-turn is very likely. The sooner the better. 


Photo Credit: Marvin Rees (cropped)  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.



The free press and the BBC. WATCH Andrew Allison and David Stephenson discuss the future of both

Andrew Allison, Head of Campaigns for The Freedom Association chatted with David Stephenson, TV Editor of the Sunday Express. They explored what the future will look like for the print media in the UK and the BBC. Does the TV licence fee have a future? Will the BBC have to explore alternative funding models? Spoiler alert: the answers to the last two questions are no and yes respectively!

Click HERE to watch it 

Click here to become a member of The Freedom Association. Click here to make a donation to help us in our work. 

The free press is under threat once again as MPs prepare to vote today

MPs are currently debating and will today vote on amendments to the Data Protection Bill that are designed to muzzle the free press. Around 90 per cent of publications have decided not to register with the state approved regulator, IMPRESS. There are many reasons for this, one being that IMPRESS is largely bankrolled (through two trusts) by free press hater Max Mosley. But the main reason is because the state should not have a say in regulating newspapers. 

As a result, 90 per cent of publications have decided to register with IPSO - a self-regulatory body that has the power to order retractions and impose fines. The fact that IPSO is not state approved is important to remember when considering the amendment from Deputy Labour Leader, Tom Watson.

From the Press Gazette:

Read more

Peers vote to bankrupt the free press

On the day we have announced a new eighth principle of a free society -  a free press and other media - Peter Mullen has written a timely article about those Peers who voted yesterday to restrict press freedom. 

Rev-Peter-Mullen_(2)_.pngIf, along with millions of others, you enjoy reading your local paper every morning, make the most of it because you might not have a local paper for much longer. For last night the House of Lords scandalously voted to restrict press freedom yet further. The vote was on an amendment to Section 40 of the Government's Data Protection Bill which will make newspapers face huge bills in data protection disputes.

Under this proposal, newspapers not signed up to a state-supported regulator would have to pay their opponent's legal costs, even if they were successful in court.

Read more