BRISTOL Council has banned local democracy reporters from attending its mayor’s media briefings.

The news comes after Alex Seabrook, a BBC-funded journalist based at BristolLive, quizzed Labour politician Marvin Rees about his decision to fly to North America to speak at a TED event.  

In a video which has now gone viral on social media, the mayor was asked whether he sees the irony in flying to Vancouver to talk about climate change.

A council communications officer suggested Seabrook should not be asking those kind of questions.

She said: “My question is Marvin was fully funded by TED to attend so I couldn’t quite understand what the role as an LDR [local democracy reporter] would be in asking that question.

“I think it is probably from a journalist from a newspaper but I can’t quite see the link to LDR.”

Since the incident, BristolLive has announced that it will not send LDRs to media briefings until the ban is lifted.

BristolLive and Bristol Post Editor Pete Gavan said: “I give my wholehearted backing and support to both the Bristol LDRs and the great work they do holding the local authority to account.

“It’s absolutely vital that the BBC-funded reporters who make up the team locally are able to carry out their remit without interference.”

Another media organisation based in the city, Bristol 24/7, announced it too will be boycotting the mayor’s press conferences.

Bristol World journalist Alex Ross also announced his support for the boycott on Twitter.

This isn’t the first time that the British mayoral office has come under fire for its treatment of journalists.

In 2019, Rees took aim at reporter Adam Postans, who was sitting in the council chamber, when he said “be great to have a journalist here".

The jokes continued as the mayor said: “Might I also say to any journalists who might be listening somewhere out there on the internet that we don’t allow our political bias to be put on full display”, seemingly implying that Postans was somehow not a real journalist. 

The reference to "political bias" had been in relation to the reporter's engagement with some of the administration's political opponents on Twitter.

Just last year, some parents in the city voiced their concerns about the city’s handling of education for children with special needs.

Hundreds of parents said they had been left unaware whether their children had been given places at schools which were designed to cope with learning difficulties. 

Many left comments underneath a video posted about the May 2020 elections.

Despite Facebook counting 49 comments under the post, only 21 remained visible when checked.

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Bristol City Council has defended its right to exclude journalists from mayoral briefings.

A spokesperson said: “We welcome public discourse as part of a healthy local democracy and respect the vital role of local journalists within that. The mayor holds a regular press conference for news outlets in the city to provide for media scrutiny and transparency.

“Relationships with journalists involve two-way dialogue and we will sometimes ask questions ourselves.

"In this instance, the journalist’s question had already been answered by the mayor when an officer politely queried their remit, given the specific nature and focus of the LDR role, and the fact that the story had already been widely covered and responded to two weeks previously.

“The clip being shared online does not represent the full context of the exchange.”