A council has come under fire for withdrawing advertising from a weekly newspaper in protest at a story it did not like.
Carmarthenshire County Council pulled advertising from the South Wales Guardian in response to an article where traders raised concerns about possible delays to a regeneration scheme for Ammanford town centre.
Following the publication of the story, the council’s press manager emailed the authority’s marketing department saying that the paper had not been supportive of the town centre and stating adverts should not be placed until the issue was resolved.
The move has been criticised by NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, along with Jonathan Edwards MP and Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM – who wrote a joint letter of objection to council leader Kevin Madge.
Michelle said: “It is wholly unacceptable for a local authority or any other public body to withdraw advertising from a newspaper as a reaction to what it sees as negative publicity about itself.
“The freedom of the press is a cornerstone of our democracy and one of the most important roles of the NUJ is to defend that principle.
“Attempting to suppress healthy public debate is no business of a local authority and I hope Carmarthenshire County Council will recognise its mistake and give a firm undertaking not to act in this way again.”
The story published in the Newsquest title earlier this month was headlined “Christmas is cancelled?” and reported from a meeting where traders raised concerns that roadworks could overrun into Christmas and ruin festivities.
In response, the council’s press manager emailed its marketing department saying: “Due to the continuing negative publicity by the Guardian and the concerns expressed by all those present at the Ammanford town centre steering group held this week, I do not think we should be placing adverts with them until this issue is resolved, as the group felt the Guardian was not supportive of the town centre which they should be as a local paper.”
Chris Burns, the council’s assistant chief executive, said: “The intention was to meet with the editor to discuss concerns that had been raised in the Ammanford Town Centre management meeting regarding a front page story in the Guardian.
“In the meantime one single advertisement was temporarily put on hold. We spend quite a lot with the Guardian and there is no intention to stop this advertising.”
It is understood the situation has now been resolved between the paper and the council.
No one from Newsquest has yet responded to requests for a comment.