Joint statement on the introduction of charges for media coverage of party conferences

Our organisations, representing print, online, and broadcast media and free speech organisations object to the introduction of charging for media access to the Party Conferences this Autumn.

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 eventsis costly, the newsindustry 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. 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.

Signed By:

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

• Conservative Party have introduced a £125 media accreditation charge
• Since publication of earlier version of this statement (on Thurs 7th July) the Labour Party have clarified the £5 media accreditation charge is a voluntary carbon offset charge.
• Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru do not charge for media accreditation.

Statement coordinated by: Foreign Press Association, News Media Association, News Media Coalition and Society of Editors.

For further information please contact [email protected].

Liberty and Index at the Conservative Party Conference


Image: Copyright 2011, Newtown Grafitti

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Manchester Central : Exchange 4

Threats to Free Speech

This event will explore the panoply of challenges to freedom of speech in the UK.

Katy Balls, deputy political editor at The Spectator, will chair this event.

Participants include: Index head of advocacy Joy Hyvarinen,  Martha Spurrier, director of Liberty; John Whittingdale MP[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

4 Oct: Balancing security, democracy and civil liberties in an age of terrorism

Index on Censorship and Demos will hold a panel discussion at Conservative Party Conference to explore the implications of the UK government’s Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill.

Striking the right balance between strengthening national security measures and safeguarding civil liberties is a challenge faced by any attempt to counter terrorism. As the government guards against the spread of extremist ideologies, it will need to ensure new powers for law enforcement do not impinge upon citizens’ civil liberties or have the unintended effect of further alienating those young people vulnerable to radicalisation. This fringe event will explore the legal and democratic implications of the bill, as well as the practicalities surrounding enforcement.

Date & Time
Tuesday 4th October, 1230 – 1400

Sarah Newton MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office (invited)
Dominic Grieve MP, Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee (invited)
Rachael Jolley, Index on Censorship
Rick Muir, The Police Foundation
Louis Reynolds, Demos
Chair: Kate McCann, The Telegraph (invited)

Room 107, Jurys Inn, Birmingham (map)

Tickets: Free. No registration required for this fringe event.

Dominic Grieve: Thumbs up for free speech

It was good to see Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, championing free speech on the first day of the Conservative party conference yesterday in Birmingham.

First, he spoke alongside Kenneth Clarke, secretary of state for justice, at a Liberty fringe event and when asked how he’d deal with rabble-rousing jihadists, he answered that he wasn’t a fan of hate speech laws. He’d much rather see hatemongers publicly dismissed or challenged rather than pursued through the courts.

He added that he felt that free speech had been eroded and it looks very likely that some of the Labour government’s misguided terrorism legislation (including glorification) will be repealed. The attorney general made another appearance later on in the day at the libel reform campaign fringe event with Index on Censorship, Sense about Science and English PEN in the Castle Fine Art gallery, flanked on each side by Bob Dylan’s perplexing pseudo Van Gogh paintings. Although he managed to upset Simon Singh by referring to the blogosphere as “froth”, his support for the campaign, along with that of John Whittingdale MP, chair of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, went down well with campaigners last night.