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Greens call for probe into council's reporter ban

Published on 2023-06-03 08:40:00 source:NBC News

Bristol's Green Party is calling for the council's "outrageous" decision to exclude Local Democracy Reporters from mayoral press briefings to be probed.

Co-leader Carla Denyer jointly tabled a motion asking a monitoring officer to examine their "appropriateness".

She spoke after the council excluded the reporters after one of them quizzed Marvin Rees about flying to Canada for a climate change conference.

The council has been approached for comment.

It has previously insisted that it was "completely false" to suggest the Local Democracy Reporter Service (LDRS) had been "barred".

A spokesman added that "all mainstream local media outlets" are invited to the briefings but that there had been a "long-standing mutual agreement" between the mayor's office and the Bristol Post about personnel attending press conferences.

He explained that whenever they are announced and held "LDRs would not be sent due to the narrow definition of their role as an impartial service".

Ms Denyer, councillor for Clifton Down, said LDRs "provide a tremendously important service for local journalism".

She added: "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."

Green councillor Ed Plowden branded the council's action "disgraceful" and "particularly concerning, given that the council's publicly funded press office is supporting this behaviour".

He added: "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."

The decision to exclude the city's two LDRS reporters from the fortnightly briefings has been widely condemned and led to numerous media organisations - including the BBC - to boycott them until the issue is resolved.

The row was sparked after a video went viral of the head of external communications at Bristol City Council questioning LDR Alex Seabrook's right to quiz Mr Rees over a 9,200-mile trip to give a talk on climate change.

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