The UK government has published new guidelines making it clear that citizens have the right to blog, tweet and film council meetings, despite some councils suggesting the opposite.
The guidelines, issued by Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Local Government, explicitly state that the public has the right to film and report on council business, including in the form of popular social media like Twitter and Facebook, and other online mediums like blogs.
The laws permitting filming and blogging of council meetings have been in for a while, but some councils have argued that various other laws prohibit the activity. The new guidelines will allay fears of citizen reporters who might have seen such prohibitions as a form of censorship.
“Data protection rules or health and safety should not be used to suppress reporting or a healthy dose of criticism,” Pickles said, according to The Telegraph.
“Modern technology has created a new cadre of bloggers and hyper-local journalists, and councils should open their digital doors and not cling to analogue interpretations of council rules.”
The rise of citizen journalism has put reporting power into the hands of the general public, but those who decide to report on public figures should brush up on online libel laws.
The guidelines do not apply to Wales. Pickles implored the Welsh government to implement similar laws.
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