NMC Calls For Halt To Charging for Party Conference Reporting

///NMC Calls For Halt To Charging for Party Conference Reporting

NMC Calls For Halt To Charging for Party Conference Reporting

Alliance of media and free speech organisations warns press accreditation fees will restrict open democracy


The News Media Coalition and a growing list of press freedom and democracy organisations have issued a joint statement demanding that the UK’s Conservative Party withdraw charges for journalists’ access to conferences its Autumn conference.

Following earlier approaches to the party, the organisations have stated: ‘A fundamental tenet of a free and democratic society is the principle of open government, and we believe this is best served by enabling journalists to freely report on matters of public interest and to stimulate political debate. For any political party to restrict fair access by charging newsgatherers to attend conferences flies in the face of their public commitments to press freedom.’

‘While we understand staging well-administered and secure events is costly, the news industry already contributes significantly by putting its reporting teams on the ground, backed by newsroom operations. Admission fees, such as the £125 imposed by the Conservative Party, could have a particularly profound impact on freelance journalists, smaller outlets, local journalists and foreign correspondents.’

The statement adds: ‘At a time when the UK government continues to assert its credentials globally, as a bastion of media freedom, this decision sets a dangerous precedent for countries around the world who will use this decision to justify financial and other barriers to media scrutiny of the political process. We therefore call upon party conference organisers to commit to enabling a free press to inform society by withdrawing any charges on journalists to attend conferences. Any such attendance fees are a tax on democracy, organisers must scrap the media access charges now.’

The statement has been signed by the following organisations, representing print, online, and broadcast media and free speech campaign groups:

*   Foreign Press Association
*   News Media Association
*   News Media Coalition
*   Society of Editors
*   European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
*   Index on Censorship
*   International Press Institute (IPI)
*   National Union of Journalists
*   ARTICLE 19
*   openDemocracy
*   Association of European Journalists
*   Professional Publishers Association
*   Commonwealth Press Union
*   Rory Peck Trust

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “A modest charge was introduced this year to discourage over-accreditation by some media outlets. At one recent conference several thousand people who applied for free media accreditation failed to collect their passes, generating large amounts of paper and plastic waste… In previous years, police security checks for non-attendees have cost the Party tens of thousands of pounds. We do not believe members and other attendees should effectively subsidise this. There are a range of exemptions on offer owing to the challenging financial situation many local outlets face.”

The NMC and other signatory organisations have told the party they were willing to raise with newsrooms the party concerns about so-called no-shows.


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