The Tories have been accused of imposing a ‘democracy tax’ after announcing plans to charge journalists to enter their party’s conference.
The speaking season is a cornerstone of the party political calendar, when MPs and lobbyists debate key policy issues and cabinet members deliver speeches that set the government’s agenda for the year ahead.
Yet for the first time, the Tories plan to charge news outlets and independent journalists £125 for media accreditation. Labor is calling for a voluntary £5 ‘carbon offset’ tax, while the Lib Dems, SNP and Plaid Cymru have brought no charges.
openDemocracy is among 14 news outlets and industry representatives urging conservatives to think again.
Receive our free daily email
Get a full story, straight to your inbox every weekday.
Our joint statement – organized by the News Media Association, the Foreign Press Association, the News Media Coalition and the Society of Editors – says the collection of fees “runs counter to their public commitments to press freedom “.
He adds, “We therefore call on party conference organizers to commit to enabling a free press to inform society by removing any charges imposed on journalists to attend conferences.
“Such attendance fees are a tax on democracy.”
The move comes amid an unprecedented government crackdown on UK press freedom. National Security Bill proposed by Priti Patel could criminalize public interest journalism if an organization has already received funding from a foreign state, while a parliamentary report has warned that the new National Security Bill online security could see news stories deleted by tech giants’ algorithms.
Last year, the Council of Europe warned that the UK’s strict defamation laws presented “a serious obstacle to the media watchdog function”, saying the country had the worst record in Europe for wealthy litigants initiating vexatious “SLAPP” (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) cases. against journalists.
The UK government frequently criticizes other countries for cracking down on press freedom and free speech.