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Government should ensure local media can question visiting ministers, says SoE

Posted on: October 2, 2020 by Ian Murray

The Society of Editors (SoE) has urged the government to issue assurances that local media will be allowed to question ministers when they visit their areas.

The move follows the decision by editors in Devon who were forced to complain to Number 10 after they were denied access to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson on a visit to their patch.

SoE executive director Ian Murray said it was vital that local media were given access to the PM and members of the government when they travelled outside the capital.

“At a time when the regional and local media are playing such a vital role in keeping their communities informed on the latest developments in the on-going Covid-19 crisis, it is not acceptable that journalists are refused access to senior government figures when they are in their area.

“The government are quite happy for the trusted local media to play its part in informing the public of the constantly changing rules and regulations surrounding the pandemic in their area, but it seems then doesn’t want to answer questions from them, even when they visit locally.

“We would urge the government to ensure that the local and regional media are included in media access during such forays outside London.”

As reported on Holdthefrontpage, journalists working for Reach plc in Devon were not allowed to attend a press conference or question and answer session held by the Prime Minister in Exeter.

Edd Moore, Reach’s digital editor for Devon and Cornwall, to criticise Downing Street in a series of posts on Twitter.

Devon Live also published a list of 12 questions it would have asked Mr Johnson if it had been given the chance.

Speaking to HTFP, Edd said he and other senior editors at Reach titles in the South West had written to Number 10 to “make our views clear” on the matter.

He added: “The regional press is playing a pivotal role in keeping the public informed in a responsible manner, in the face of constant uncertainty and confusion from many over the government’s approach to the pandemic.

He said: “Since the daily coronavirus briefings were ended in June, the regional press has had limited access to the Prime Minister and other senior MPs and events such as this are a crucial way of the government communicating with the public, through titles such as ours.”

Picture: Stefan Rousseau, PA Media