Belfast Telegraph

Castlereagh Borough Council bans in-session live reports

By Rebecca Black

Councillors have slapped a gag order on reporting proceedings during their meetings.

A ban on 'transmissions' during meetings of a council has been described as "draconian and ridiculous".

Any members of the public who attend meetings of Castlereagh Borough Council were last night asked to sign a form to say they will not make any transmissions before being allowed inside.

The term transmission implies that social media such as Twitter and Facebook cannot be used during meetings, but may also apply to text messages and emails.

The council has not issued any guidance on what if any transmissions are allowed.

Councillors voted through a DUP amendment to Standing Orders that proceedings at meetings "may not be photographed, videoed, sound recorded or transmitted in an way outside the meeting without prior permission of the Chair".

The amendment proposed by DUP councillor Jim White and seconded by his colleague Denny Vitty continues: "Failure to comply with this standing order may invoke standing orders relating to disorderly conduct and disturbance by members of the public".

Belfast City Council allows the use of Twitter during meetings, and also broadcasts its meetings live online.

Councillors, the media and members of the public have all made use of Twitter during meetings and Belfast has even issued its own Twitter hashtag which is #bccwebcast. Alliance councillor Michael Long said his party opposed the amendment, slamming it as "bizarre".

"This has to be one of the most draconian and ridiculous measures introduced in this council yet and comes only months after unionists blocked an Alliance motion to record meetings, which was aimed at increasing openness and transparency," he said.

Mr Long added: "This standing order is a futile attempt to block technological progress. I would urge the DUP to think again."

Earlier this year, Westminster Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles advised local councils to allow the use of Twitter at meetings. "I want to stand up for the rights of journalists and taxpayers to scrutinise decisions," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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