A council involved in a row over an “advertising blackout” has been accused of stifling free speech by blocking a debate on press freedom.
The Plaid Cymru group on Carmarthenshire County Council drew up a motion about freedom of the press, following claims by the South Wales Guardian that it had lost out on advertising after publishing a critical piece.
The group’s motion asked councillors to express support for a free press and it expected this to be discussed by the full council in the chamber.
But it says that chief executive Mark James has instead referred the motion to an Executive Board member for consideration in private, rather than allowing it to be discussed in public.
Plaid Cymru group leader Coun Peter Hughes-Griffiths said: “It is very alarming that a motion asking Carmarthenshire County Council to support press freedom has itself been censored.
“How ironic that, in trying to stand up for free speech, we find ourselves being gagged. Elected members have been barred from discussing a matter of public concern by the chief executive.
“It is exactly this kind of obstruction to democratic debate that gives this council such a bad name.”
The motion by the group said: “This council respects the freedom of the press and recognises the essential role of local papers in communicating, educating and sharing information about the council’s activities and services amongst local communities.”
Plaid Cymru is the largest political group on the authority, which is controlled by a Labour and Independent coalition.
The row between the Guardian and the council broke out last month when editor Mike Lewis accused the authority of cutting advertising to the tune of £9,000 after it published a critical article in September.
This led to the council launching a scathing attack on the title, saying its claims of an advertising blackout were “nonsense” and branding the paper’s editorial coverage as “biased and unbalanced”.
The paper then hit back with further articles seeking to refute the council’s statement that commercial reasons were behind the reduction in adverts.
Carmarthenshire County Council has not yet responded to requests for a comment.