Society responds to new Liberal Democrat guidance on use of fake newspapers

Posted on: March 21, 2024 by Claire Meadows

The Society of Editors has responded to new guidance issued by the Liberal Democrat Party advising campaigners to ensure that all newspaper style leaflets distributed to the public are clearly identifiable on the front page as being from, and paid for, by the Liberal Democrats.

The guidance, issued to all local parties in a letter by Party President Mark Pack, follows a pledge by the Society of Editors earlier this year to “name and shame” political parties and candidates who continue to attempt to mislead voters by distributing campaign material disguised as local newspapers.

In the letter to local parties, Pack says that while the party believes that tabloid newspapers remain “an effective way of communicating with people”, the use of the format must be done in an “appropriate way’ and “strict guidance” now makes clear that labelling must be on the front page. In addition, the party has asked local campaigners to avoid giving their correspondence titles that could be “confused with any similar local newspapers”.

Responding to the guidance, Dawn Alford, Executive Director of the Society of Editors said: “While the Society remains strongly opposed to political parties mimicking the format of a local newspaper to correspond with the electorate, we are pleased that the Liberal Democrat Party has listened to concerns raised and issued new strict guidance calling on local parties to make sure that leaflets are clearly identifiable as being from the party on the front page.

“We call on all political parties to issue similar guidelines and we would welcome their commitment to doing all they can to highlight and promote the work of the actual local press as a trusted source of news and information rather than undermining them.”

At present, the law requires political parties to use small election imprints on any literature distributed to the public and the new guidance from the Liberal Democrats says that it is “committed to leading the way on transparency in politics and going above and beyond the legal requirement”.

The letter states: “For some time we have been asking Lib Dem campaigns across the country to make sure all tabloid leaflets are clearly identifiable as being from and paid for by the Liberal Democrats on the front page. You will find all the HQ-produced templates provided on the party’s Campaign Hub do this and we ask that local parties stick to this.

“By clearly marking tabloid leaflets as being from the Liberal Democrats in a clearly visible way on the front page, will show us to be leading the way on transparency.

“In the spirit of upholding local journalism and avoiding confusion among residents, please also avoid giving your tabloid a title that could be confused with any similar local newspaper”.