Tower Hamlets blogger Ted Jeory has told how he was ejected from a council meeting after complaining about inadequate seating room for the press.
Jeory has said he was “frogmarched” out of the town hall by two uniformed security guards on the orders of the council’s head of communications.
The blogger has admitted he called Takki Sulaiman a “prick” and that he regretted this. On the communications worker, he said: “He and I have a long history. He dislikes my journalism and I dislike his attitude to press freedom.”
In a blog about being ejected from the meeting on Wednesday, Jeory – who is digital news director at the Daily and Sunday Express – criticised the council for “a gradual erosion in the access afforded to reporters wishing to cover council meetings” in the nine years he has covered it.
He noted that the problems did not start with Sulaiman, but said he has been guilty of converting “press queries to Freedom of Information requests”.
On Wednesday’s meeting, Jeory said that he had arrived ten minutes before the 7.30pm start to find a member of the public sitting in an area reserved for the press so he was forced to stand at the back of the public gallery. He also noted that a council worker for town hall newspaper East End Life had been given a seat.
Jeory said Sulaiman told him his seat had been given away because he had not responded to an email confirming his attendance – although the blogger said he received no such email.
The head of communications came to confront Jeory after he had tweeted about the situation and as he turned to leave Jeory, “in a quiet voice, one on one, I told him he was acting like a prick”.
He added: “He asked me to repeat it. So I did. He then asked whether I’d like to be removed from the gallery. I said, ‘Do what you want Takki, I’m trying to report.’
“He then hurried off and walked into a wall.
“Then a few seconds later, two THEOS (Tower Hamlets Enforcement Officers) approached me. They asked me to leave the gallery. I followed them. Takki was waiting in the corridor outside. He asked me whether I’d called him a prick. I said Yes. He said I’d have to leave the building and the two THEOS walked me to the lift, got in, shook their heads in embarrassment and made sure I left the town hall.”
Sulaiman said in an email: "We had two rows reserved for the press but by the time the meeting was about to start only two had turned up and as it was a short meeting (the council AGM) we gave the remainder to the public as interest was high.
"Shortly after Mr Jeory arrived unhappy at not having a seat (he stood at the back). He tweeted that the Editor of East End Life (our council publication) had a seat and I approached him stating that she was disabled hence she needed a seat. He then called me a pr**k – twice. I approached our security staff who asked him to leave and he confirmed to them and again online what he had said. He then left.
"A number of press inside, most of whom had seats, continued to report on the meeting so this is not an issue about press access. It is about one man abusing a council officer.
"These are formal meetings and all attendees are expected to behave reasonably."