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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

CIoJ says local authorities who shut out media and public shut down democracy

Press release
Release date: 30 June 2017

The Chartered Institute of Journalists says public bodies that lock out the public and media are closing down democracy.

Britain’s longest standing professional association of journalists is calling on the government to send in commissioners to take over Kensington and Chelsea Council after its cabinet excluded the public and media from a meeting to discuss the Grenfell Tower fire disaster in which at least 80 people died.

When a High Court Judge ordered the council to let in reporters with press cards, the council ended the meeting.

Institute President Mark Croucher says: “This is the worst example of a public body insulting our democratic traditions in living memory.”

He said: “If Kensington and Chelsea council had genuine public order worries, it only had to admit accredited media reporters and allow live sound/tv transmission of the meeting.”

The Institute says the media have to be given full access to public body meetings and any legal proceedings investigating the catastrophes that the UK has experienced in recent months.

The CIoJ says this affair is part of a trend in public bodies not respecting their duty to show transparency and accountability.

Mr Croucher said the Institute was appalled that the Southwark coroner this week failed to give proper notice to the media on the inquest opening for the three London Bridge terrorists shot dead by police.

He added: “The Coroner realised his mistake and sensibly released a sound recording of the hearing to reporters.

“Professional journalists are the eyes and ears of the public. If they are denied access we are denied democracy.”

The Institute says Article 10 of the UK Human Rights Act places an obligation on public bodies to ensure freedom of expression to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority.