Society seeks government assurances following exclusion of news outlets from Rwanda trip

Posted on: March 21, 2023 by Claire Meadows

The Society of Editors has written to the government seeking assurances that it remains committed to engaging with all UK media outlets following criticism around the exclusion of news organisations from a recent Home Office visit to Rwanda.

The trip, which took place over the weekend, saw outlets including The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, GB News and PA Media invited to accompany the Home Secretary on the visit to Rwandan capital Kigali, but saw titles such as the BBC, the Daily Mirror, The Guardian, The Independent and Sky News excluded from attendance.

The trip was used to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to its migrant policy and view facilities being prepared for asylum seekers who the government plans to deport from Britain to Rwanda.

Writing to both the Prime Minister and Home Office outlining its concern over selective media attendance on the visit, the Society said that it was important for public scrutiny of government policies that a full range of platforms were given access to such important visits.

It said: “While the Society appreciates that security and capacity considerations can often factor into decision-making around media access to ministerial trips, it is essential for proper scrutiny of all government policies that a full range of platforms – representing the breadth and diversity of UK audiences – are given the opportunity to attend both domestic and overseas taxpayer-funded trips.”

Pointing to guidelines issued by the Government Communications Service (GCS) which stresses the importance of public perception around objective dealings between the government and media and access being “misrepresented as party political”,  the Society sought assurances that the government remained committed to openness and transparency for all news outlets.

It said: “As I am sure you will agree, it is damaging to the public’s confidence and perception of open and transparent government if the public perceives that news outlets critical of government policy are prevented from scrutinising matters of significant public interest.

“Moving forward, I would welcome your assurances that the government remains committed to working alongside all UK media organisations for the benefit of the public and that all departments will adhere fully to the GCS guidance when arranging future trips involving government representatives. In addition, if the Society can help facilitate any conversations that might prove useful in ensuring that the guidance is followed and media outlets could use as a conduit to raise concerns, we are happy to discuss this further.”