Union to write to all parties to seek assurances that journalists will be granted fair access to general election events
The move comes after the union received reports from members working for local newspapers and the BBC members that reporters and photographers, many of them with local knowledge of the area where an election event or photo-opportunity is being held, are being denied access or are being blocked from asking the questions they know their readers and viewers want to hear.
It has also had reports of the heavy-handed treatment from the spin doctors of the Prime Minister’s entourage on a number of events on the election trail.
Journalists on the Huddersfield Daily Examiner said they were “treated with disdain” during a visit by the Prime Minister to their patch. The newspaper’s local government correspondent said she was not allowed to join Mr Cameron’s tour of a factory in the marginal Colne Valley constituency. She was eventually given one minute of his time. The reporter from the Yorkshire Post, covering the same event, received similar treatment.
Reporters on the Nottingham Post said they were prevented from asking questions on local issues, such as NHS waiting times and the county’s allocation of the Better Care Fund.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “The media has a vital role to play in democracy, holding our national and local politicians to account. This is even more important during a general election when the political parties are making promises, presenting their policies and defending their record on local and national services.
“Journalists, national and local, say these stage-managed events, stuffed with party activists and supporters, are a travesty of democratic engagement. Heaven forfend if the Prime Minister gets to meet a “real voter”.
Reporters have also complained the accreditation process to get into election events is vastly bureaucratic and intrusive – they are expected to submit details including their home address, passport and driving licence numbers and a photograph and are being charged for the privilege.
Michelle Stanistreet said: “It is unacceptable that licence fee payers’ money is being wasted on boosting party coffers in this way.
“Journalists should be able to ask the questions they know the electorate want answering. Election events should reflect the hurly burly of political debate and not be reduced to patronising photo-calls. This is exactly the reason why reporters are discovering the lack of engagement and trust voters have with the political classes.”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.