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Council decision to scrap Grenfell Tower meeting 'truly shocking'


30 June 2017

SoE

The decision by senior councillors linked to the Grenfell Tower tragedy to scrap a meeting due to the presence of journalists has been described as 'truly shocking' by the Society of Editors. 

The meeting, held last night, was adjourned despite reporters winning a legal challenge which saw a judge order Kensington and Chelsea council to lift a ban on reporters attending. 

The decision to halt the meeting was announced by the Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington leader Nicholas Paget-Brown who claimed the presence of reporters would 'prejudice' a forthcoming public inquiry. Members of the public had also been barred from the meeting on the basis that their presence would “likely result in disorder”.

The Society of Editors has described the decision to scrap the meeting as ‘disgraceful’ and said that it is essential that the council is open and transparent in its response to the tragedy.

The Society said: “The decision by the council to attempt to hold the meeting behind closed doors in the first place was met with astonishment and rightly resulted in numerous media organisations launching a legal challenge to grant them access. The fact that upon being ordered by a judge to allow reporters to attend, the council leader then took the decision to halt the meeting is truly shocking. Not only do journalists have a legal right, as recognised by the judge, to attend public meetings of local authorities, there is a huge public interest in the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the media has a vital role to play in keeping the public informed.

“The conduct of Kensington and Chelsea council in refusing to open themselves up to public scrutiny is an affront to democracy and shows utter contempt for the public’s right to know. It is essential that lessons are learnt from Grenfell Tower and, in order to achieve that, all individuals linked to the tragedy must be willing to engage in open and frank discussion and allow legitimate reporting of any dialogue. Any further attempts to prevent scrutiny by the media will be met with similar legal challenges.”


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