Why some newspapers are reluctant to print local news

27 Feb

Those of you who have followed the libel trial of James v. Thomas reported below may be interested in this post from the blog Carmarthen Planning, which was posted in January 2013.

“Censorship from County Hall [in Carmarthen, Wales] takes yet another turn for the worse as an attempt by the Plaid Cymru group to have the issue of press freedom debated in the chamber has been blocked by the Chief Executive.

The recent revelation over the ‘leaked’ email concerning the withdrawal of advertising from the South Wales Guardian for ‘negative reporting’ seems to have been the tipping point and has galvanised the 28-strong opposition group into action. As regular readers of this and Cneifiwr’s blog will know, this was far from an isolated incident. Plaid are correct that this issue is of public importance, not something to be discussed in secret with a pliant Executive Board Member loyal to the culture of spin and censorship.

In an effort to thwart ‘controversial’ motions you will remember that the constitution was altered to require a unprecedented seven seconders to a Motion [I hesitate to put this in, in case EDDC gets an idea, but this is a post about censorship!]. This was no problem for the group but, despite Plaid making sure that the variety of obstacles to getting the motion on the agenda had been overcome, there was clearly no way on earth that this was going to be discussed in the Chamber.

However, it should be becoming increasingly obvious to all concerned exactly where the biggest obstacle lies.

Plaid press release;

COUNCIL CHIEF ACCUSED OF GAGGING FREE SPEECH

The Plaid Cymru group on Carmarthenshire County Council has accused the authority’s Chief Executive of stifling free speech by blocking a debate in the council chamber on press freedom.

Plaid had drawn up a Notice of Motion asking councillors to express support for a free press following allegations by a local newspaper that the council were operating a ban on advertising in the paper, due to adverse news reports.

But Chief Executive Mark James has refused to place the Motion before the full council, referring it instead to an Executive Board member for consideration in private.

“It is very alarming that a motion asking Carmarthenshire County Council to support press freedom has itself been censored,” said Plaid group leader Cllr Peter Hughes-Griffiths. “How ironic that, in trying to stand up for free speech, we find ourselves being gagged. Elected members have been barred from discussing a matter of public concern by the Chief Executive. It is exactly this kind of obstruction to democratic debate that gives this council such a bad name.”

Plaid Cymru, with 28 members, is the largest political group on the Labour/Independent controlled council. Plaid attempted to raise the issue after the South Wales Guardian published an e-mail, sent in error by the council’s Communications Unit, giving an instruction that the council should not place adverts in the paper due to ‘negative publicity’. The Plaid motion reads: “This council respects the freedom of the press and recognises the essential role of local papers in communicating, educating and sharing information about the council’s activities and services amongst local communities.”

Plaid Cymru maintains that the Notice of Motion is not an Executive Board matter, as it refers to the wider relationship between the council, press and public – a relationship which is currently under considerable strain due to the authority’s attempt to control, not only the news it chooses to release through its Communications Unit, but the content of reports in local newspapers

Jan 2013

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