Councillors in Louth have blocked a move to allow journalists to ‘live Tweet’ their debates to followers on the social media platform.
A request by Leader reporter Sam Kinnaird to amend Louth Town Council’s standing orders which would allow for live Tweeting during debates was backed by just two members at Tuesday’s full council meeting.
Councillors raised fears that their comments could be taken out of context and said that press reports should be ‘properly considered’, but one member said rejecting the request would be ‘censorship at source’.
A lengthy debate on the matter also included a request to post a report onto the Leader’s website towards the end of council meetings, a suggestion which was amended to being allowed ‘at the end of the meetings’ but was eventually passed.
Tweeting live during meetings is something allowed at many authority levels, including East Lindsey District Council. And in 2011 the Lord Chief Justice ruled that journalists should be allowed to update their followers from courts across England and Wales.
But on the live Tweeting debate on Tuesday night, Louth’s Mayor Coun Jill Makinson-Sanders, who was not at the debate, said in correspondence that journalists ‘should not be doing this from a council chamber’.
“They should have the courtesy to do it from the foyer,” she added.
Coun Chris Green said he didn’t agree with the idea of live Tweeting and Coun Laura Stephenson, though conceding that it was ‘important that people have the opportunity to get all the information to what is happening’, was also not in favour.
However district and county Coun Pauline Watson disagreed, she said: “I don’t have a problem with it at all. It’s a public place and if somebody says something wrong then so be it.
“We’ve got to move with the times.”
‘We have to realise the town council is open, why do we have to hide behind things?’
The chairman of the council’s debate, Coun Brian Burnett, added: “To report live is asking for mistakes, it’s the instancy of it,” but Coun Fran Treanor urged the council to move with the times, informing them that even The Pope was a prolific Tweeter.
“We have to realise the town council is open, why do we have to hide behind things?” Coun Treanor asked.
Coun Andrew Leonard suggested that ‘one third of the councillors never speak anyway’ and after adding ‘It’s about the context’ he said the council needed to ‘move with the times’.
Coun Neil Ward continued: “Censorship at its source has never been a favourite of mine. I’m sure this is a way of getting to voters in a way we haven’t tried before.”
“My argument is not about censorship,” responded Coun Burnett.
Coun Chris Green finished the debate by adding: “If people are that interested in what we do they could come along to our meetings.”
Councillors took a vote and only Couns Neil Ward and Pauline Watson opted to vote in favour out of the 16 members, meaning live Tweeting during Louth Town Council meetings remains outlawed.
What do you make of this decision? Is the council right to ban journalists from live Tweeting their debates, or is this, as Coun Ward claimed, ‘censorship at source’?