RELEASE DATE: 20 June 2014
Attempts to ban parish councillors from speaking directly to the press are an outrageous attack on democracy, a journalists’ organisation has warned.
The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) is telling its members to adopt a new media policy which would prevent councillors from speaking to reporters without the written consent of the whole authority. The guidance also urges councils to adopt rules banning journalists from contacting councillors directly, with all contact made through the council clerk.
Amanda Brodie, chairman of the Professional Practices Board of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, said: “This is an outrageous attack on freedom of speech and democracy. The requirement to get written consent from the entire council before even giving a simple quote to a reporter, will make it impossible for journalists to do their jobs properly.
“Any organisation which spends public money must be transparent in its dealings, and co-operation with the press is a vital part of that process. These guidelines amount to a gagging order on councillors and simply must not be tolerated.
“Parish councils are the bedrock of local reporting and councillors must be free to approach journalists with concerns they may have, without fear of being disciplined for doing so.
“What we have been seeing in so many other sectors of public life recently is the whittling away at access to information, which leads to sanitised and often distorted reporting of the facts.
“This is death by a thousand cuts for our democracy and must be challenged – we are delighted that Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has announced his support for press freedom by opposing this move.”
Notes for Editors:
Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.