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Council paper 'against democracy'

PUBLISHED: 17:23 03 March 2009 | UPDATED: 11:04 11 August 2010

GRIM forecasts about freedom of the press were drawn after the council announced plans to publish its own paper. A fortnightly council publication called The News will hit doorsteps this Spring, creating an outcry among opposition councillors, who fear

GRIM forecasts about freedom of the press were drawn after the council announced plans to publish its own paper.

A fortnightly council publication called 'The News' will hit doorsteps this Spring, creating an outcry among opposition councillors, who fear that it is going to undermine democracy and take advertising revenue away from the local press.

Conservative councillor, Terry Justice, of Chadwell Heath ward, said: "It will have a negative effect on democracy and give a hackneyed and biased view on what takes place in the borough.

"If this is going to be another political engine for the Labour Party, like the Citizen magazine, then I'm totally against it."

He added: "With regards to advertising revenue it will take from the local press, it will interfere even more with democracy.

"The fact is that the local press do give us a voice. I believe in freedom of speech in this country."

When the POST asked the leader of the council, Charles Fairbrass, if there would be any control over editorial content, he said: "Of course there won't be any. It wouldn't be allowed legally."

He said: "The council members will not decide what goes into the paper. The people who write it - the editorial staff - will do that.

"It will be a normal newspaper."

Opposition leader Cllr Bob Bailey, said: "It's going to be terrible for the local media, especially in this current economic climate.

"We have very good newspapers and they provide a very good service to the community."

The free paper, which will be a merger of the existing Citizen, Spotlight and Neighbourhood Matters magazines, will be distributed to all households and businesses from the end of May.

Chief executive Rob Whiteman said: "The News will be a newspaper for the community, with more timely information and greater community engagement."

He added: "In these tough economic times, we are also delighted to be able to provide an improved and more efficient service.


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