Bristol City Council bans local democracy reporters from press briefings   

  • 23 Jun 2022

NUJ condemns “anti-democratic” decision to ban reporters in attempt to undermine quality journalism.   

The decision by Bristol Council follows a question asked by LDR Alex Seabrook to mayor Marvin Rees on his decision to fly to Canada in April, for a 14-minute TED talk on climate change. Seabrook’s question was met with resistance by Saskia Konynenburg, head of communications, who questioned the reporter’s credentials, stating he was not a newspaper journalist. 

She said:

“My question is Marvin was fully-funded by TED to attend so I couldn’t quite understand what the role as an LDR would be in asking that question. I think it is probably from a journalist from a newspaper but I can’t quite see the link to LDR.” 

The NUJ is urging Rees to reinstate access to press briefings for LDR’s, recognising the essential role played by these reporters in ensuring quality, accurate journalism thrives.   

Charlotte Green, Reach LDR chapel rep, said:  

"The Reach LDR NUJ chapel strongly condemns the position adopted towards Local Democracy Reporters in Bristol by the city council. 

"Holding authorities to account and scrutinising their actions and decisions - including asking difficult questions that leaders might not like - is at the heart of the purpose of the scheme. 

"Reactionary measures, like banning LDRs from Mayoral media briefings, only serves to undermine a council's public commitment to transparency and accountability to its residents. 

"We stand firmly in support of our colleagues in Bristol to report without fear or favour, and they should not face retribution for asking questions in the public interest." 

Chris Morley, NUJ Reach national coordinator:

“The LDR service has proved a great success in shining a welcome light into many of the dark recesses of public authorities with fine public interest journalism. 

“The action of the city council is arrogant, high-handed, and essentially anti-democratic. The slur it implies on the professionalism of our LDR members is thoroughly rejected. 

“We remain hopeful that the city council can see the error of its ways and give the LDR service the respect it fully deserves.” 

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