Council cronies are attacking press freedom

Another week, another attempt to slight the tabloid press. This time, the Sun is on the verge of being banished from all premises within Flintshire council in Wales.

Labour councillors Bernie Attridge and Kevin Hughes have put forward a motion that could ban the Sun and its journalists from all council-owned buildings. This apparently reflects ‘the strong feelings elicited as a result of the Sun’s reporting of the Hillsborough tragedy’. Does this mean that council-home tenants will no longer be able to choose which morning paper they read? The motion also proposes that Flintshire council support ‘Total Eclipse of the S*N’ – a Liverpool-based campaign which seeks to stop retailers stocking the paper.

For those of us who believe in a free and liberal society, this is worrying. Any attempt to stifle the press should be challenged, but there is something particularly chilling about this latest attack on the Sun. Sure, there have been successful campaigns to ban it, and other tabloid papers, from football stadiums and cornershops – and even expel redtops from university campuses. But suggesting that government officials should exert control over which newspapers are available reveals how dire the state of press freedom is today.

Where is the national outrage over this? Local government officials are delighting in the opportunity to banish a newspaper and nobody is angry. What kind of society endorses and supports state control of the press? And what happens next – will we allow TFL officials to banish tabloids from Tube trains.

You don’t have to like a newspaper, or agree with its editorial line, to recognise and value the importance of a free press. It is a foundational principle of a free society – one that any liberal-leaning citizen should defend as an absolute. Allowing council cronies to decide which newspapers we should be reading, and where we can read them, is an attack on our democratic freedoms.

Emily Dinsmore is a writer and student.

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