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Editors reaffirm mayoral boycott as usual briefing fails to take place

Marvin ReesEditors have reaffirmed their boycott of a mayor’s press conferences after the most recent briefing failed to take place.

Further media organisations have backed a decision to stay away from fortnightly conferences held by Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees after Bristol Post local democracy reporters Alex Seabrook and Adam Postans were barred from attending.

The most recent of the fortnightly briefings was due to be held yesterday but Bristol City Council has claimed one was not scheduled.

Editors at boycott participants the Post, Bristol 24/7, Bristol World and ITV West Country have now published a joint letter to Mr Rees, pictured, maintaining their stance, which was taken after a public relations boss at the authority challenged Alex’s right to ask a question of the mayor during a recent conference.

The letter is also signed by Matty Edwards, of independent title the Bristol Cable, and Jim Foulger, head of news and sport at Greatest Hits Radio South West owner Bauer Media.

The BBC has also joined the boycott but is not listed among the letter’s signatories.

In the letter, the editors called on Mr Rees, himself a former BBC journalist, to “appreciate the importance of a free press and the crucial role it plays in a healthy democracy”.

They wrote: “We feel strongly that it is not in the best interests of people in Bristol for local democracy reporters to be prevented from attending your fortnightly briefings.

“As you will be aware, these reporters provide a service which is frequently used by multiple local outlets – and we believe that it offers our audiences a valuable insight into local decisions.

“Our organisations have each decided not to attend or report on today’s scheduled mayoral briefing – or future briefings – until this exclusion is lifted.

“We sincerely hope we can find a positive and productive resolution that will allow local democracy reporters, as well as our own journalists, to resume their coverage of these media briefings.

“We would be happy to discuss this matter with you via Pete Gavan at the Bristol Post or through the BBC’s representatives.”

Alex was challenged at a recent briefing by the council’s head of external comms Saskia Konynenburg after he questioned Mr Rees over his decision to fly 9,000 miles to Canada and back to give a talk on climate change.

Ms Konyenburg had described Alex’s question as something “a journalist from a newspaper”, rather than an LDR, should ask.

The council defended its actions and claimed the Post breached a “long-standing agreement” that it would not send either Alex or Adam to cover the Labour mayor’s remotely-held conferences, while the newspaper said it has always “reserved the right” to have LDRs cover the briefings.

HTFP has approached Bristol City Council for further comment on the editors’ letter the authority has claimed there was no briefing scheduled for yesterday.