Peter Thornton QC, left, has issued the guidance, which reminds coroners of journalists’ rights to attend courts and ask for access to court documents.
It follows a spate of incidents over recent years in which regional newspapers have been denied information by coroners, including one who refused to even name the person who had died.
The guidance reminds coroners of their responsibility to publish details of forthcoming inquests in advance of the hearing and also set out reasons why journalists may be refused access.
It reads: “The purpose of this guidance is to help coroners in all aspects of their work which concerns the media. It is intended to assist coroners on the law and procedures to be followed and with a view to providing greater consistency of approach across England and Wales.
“It is also hoped that the guidance will provide journalists with a clear understanding of the relevant law and procedure for their role in reporting cases in coroners’ courts.”
In March 2014, the Oxford Mail lanched a protest after Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter refused to reveal the name of a dead man into whom he conducted an inquest.
As a result, coroners were given fresh guidance on whether to withhold dead people’s identities.
Two months ago, the Society of Editors told Mr Thornton in a letter that the reluctance of coroners to provide information to the media was damaging police and media relations and causing declining standards of information being released to the public.
In an editorial, he wrote: “Coroners have been known not reveal full names in an effort to make hearings impossible to report. Under the guidance, journalists are able to tweet or live blog at hearings and can request access to documents. The coroner should approach such requests with open justice in mind.
“The chief coroner also advises the holders of one of the most ancient offices in English law to give journalists the opportunity to make representations when making decisions that affect our interests such as reporting restrictions.
“To see all of this in black and white is heartening even if it takes time to filter down and some coroners will do their very best to ignore it.
“By building a constructive relationship or constantly applying the pressure and holding coroners to this guidance, we can continue to serve our audiences and inform them of stories that are most definitely in the public interest.”