Argus cries foul after reporter is ejected from public meeting

The Argus newspaper in Brighton has made a formal complaint after councillors attempted to eject one of its journalists from a public meeting.

Falmer Parish councillors tried to eject Argus reporter Simon Barrett from a meeting in the village hall.

The councillors were discussing whether to appeal against the Government’s decision to grant planning permission to Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club for a 22,500-seat stadium in Falmer, and refused to debate the matter in front of the press.

According to The Argus, after Barrett left, ‘a villager later physically stopped our reporter getting back into the public building”.

The Argus reported: ‘Officials pledged to hold the decisive meeting behind closed doors in someone’s house, despite it affecting tens of thousands of people in Sussex.”

Editor Michael Beard has written a letter of complaint to the parish council, in which he says: ‘We, members of the press, are entitled to attend the public meeting, which was in fact labelled as ‘public’ on the door, unless the matters to be discussed were confidential or prejudicial to the public interest.

‘It is clear from the agenda of the meeting that the issue regarding Falmer Stadium was to be discussed in the presence of the public.

‘It was only when the reporter from The Argus arrived that there was a discussion, and the issue regarding the stadium was branded confidential.

‘It seems very clear to us that the sole reason the parish council removed the Falmer Stadium issue from the agenda is because they did not want a representative from The Argus to be present, despite their approval of the presence of any other members of the public.”

Lawyers for The Argus looked into appealing the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman, but were unable to take it any further because that body does not represent parish councils.

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