The journalists’ union has joined the fray over Prime Minister David Cameron’s “heavy-handed” treatment of local press journalists during the election campaign after it was highlighted on HTFP.
Now National Union of Journalist’ president Michelle Stanistreet has described the Tory spin-doctors’ treatment of local press journalists as a “travesty of democratic engagement.”
The union says it will be seeking assurances from all the major political parties that journalists will be given fair access to candidates ahead of the election on 7 May.
During a visit to Huddersfield last week, journalists from both the Yorkshire Post and the Daily Examiner were held in a small room with other regional journalists for more than an hour while national journalists accompanied the PM on a factory tour.
Examiner political reporter Joanne Douglas was then given one minute to interview Mr Cameron while photographer Andrew Catchpool was prevented from photographing him by a press officer as he left the factory.
The Nottingham Post also revealed it was denied the opportunity to ask Mr Cameron questions it had tabled 24 hours prior to his visit to its patch on Thursday.
HTFP has made repeated approaches to the Conservative Party for a comment on the issue but none has yet been forthcoming.
Michelle, pictured above left, said: “Journalists, national and local, say these stage-managed events, stuffed with party activists and supporters, are a travesty of democratic engagement. Heaven forfend if the Prime Minister gets to meet a ‘real voter’.
“They also say the accreditation process to get into election events is vastly bureaucratic and intrusive – journalists are expected to submit details including their home address, passport and driving licence numbers and a photograph and are being charged for the privilege.
“It is unacceptable that licence fee payers money is being wasted on boosting party coffers in this way.
“The NUJ will be contacting all the major parties to seek assurances that journalists will be granted fair access to events and be able to ask the questions they know the electorate want answering.
“Election events should reflect the hurly burly of political debate and not be reduced to patronising photo-calls.
“This is exactly the reason why reporters are discovering the lack of engagement and trust voters have with the political classes.”