Bristol Greens have responded to the Mayor’s decision to exclude Local Democracy Reporters from his press briefings. This has also led to a boycott of the briefings by other news organisations across the city.
Councillor Carla Denyer said:
“Local Democracy Reporters (LDR) provide a tremendously important service for local journalism: attending council meetings, digging into detail to find stories, and holding politicians – of all stripes – to account. I think it’s outrageous that the Mayor has banned these reporters from his regular press conferences. It’s behaviour that the National Union of Journalists has rightly condemned as “arrogant, high-handed, and essentially anti-democratic.” And unfortunately it’s part of a pattern we have seen from the Mayor of resistance and hostility to being asked honest questions – one that many councillors, journalists, residents and even NHS workers in Bristol have been on the receiving end of – including myself. This isn’t even the first time Marvin Rees has attacked a local democracy reporter for doing their job.
“Journalists asking politicians difficult questions is both a fact of life and an essential part of a healthy democracy – one that as co-leader of the Green party I have to prepare for most days. Most of us accept that it’s important for those in power to be publicly held to account, and that democracy suffers when they try to pick and choose what questions they can be asked.
“So it’s been really heartening to see journalists from other outlets stand up for the LDR service, with almost all of Bristol’s media outfits now boycotting these briefings in solidarity – just as national media did after Boris Johnson’s team tried to expel journalists from briefings at Number 10. Ultimately I believe the Mayor’s approach will be self-defeating – you don’t win a debate by suppressing discussion, you win it with a better argument.
“The Mayor has a chance to change the story – he could take responsibility for his actions, apologise and accept that this was the wrong thing to do, that there are no ‘wrong questions’ for journalists (or councillors, or the public) to ask Bristol’s Mayor. This would go a long way to undoing the damage done by his actions.”
Councillor Ed Plowden said:
“This disgraceful action is particularly concerning, given that the Council’s publicly funded Press Office is supporting this behaviour, when its job is to serve the City and people of Bristol, not to support partisan politics or prop up the fragile ego of a single politician. I have tabled a motion calling on the Council’s legal department to examine the role of the Council’s Press Office in light of this situation.
“This action brings the city into disrepute and is reflective of a model of leadership that the City has rejected. Attempting to hide from accountability is weak leadership. Attacking the person asking the questions is part of a political playbook that we have seen too much of in Bristol and across the world. Along with Carla Denyer, members of the public and even NHS doctors, I too have been personally attacked and belittled as a tactic to avoid answering probing questions.
“I am looking forward to a new era of politics in Bristol now that the public have rejected the Mayoral model. I call on the Mayor to reflect and summon the strength to admit he made the wrong call and reverse this decision”
More on this story can be found here.