Llanelli Star trainee reporter forced to leave council meeting and hand over notes

A Llanelli Star trainee reporter was ejected from a council meeting and had his notes confiscated after 45 minutes.

Chad Welch attended the meeting, in which councillors were discussing a campaign to protect local health services, last Thursday after the Star was invited to attend the event.

Welch had been taking notes for a quarter-of-an-hour when councillors became aware he was a reporter and told him the meeting was private.

He was told by rural council clerk Mark Galbraith to hand over his notes and leave. Welch tore the pages out of his notebook and left.

Galbraith then refused to return the notes to Welch, who joined the Star in January, on Friday afternoon.

Star editor Bede MacGowan told Press Gazette the paper is still trying to get the notes back.

He said: "Obviously they are our property. I'm still considering the best way to get them back."

MacGowan pointed out that they could now have been thrown away but said if they do still exist he will try to get them back – while keeping in mind how important it is to have a good relationship with the council.

He wrote on the Star's website: "For him to be kicked out, have his notes taken from him and the door locked behind him – well the facts speak for themselves really and it is not something we will take lying down.

"I was shocked and angry when I heard how our reporter had been treated, and judging from the response to our tweets about it, so are many other people – it seems almost unprecedented.

"Let's not forget that these were public servants discussing a matter of huge public interest in a building paid for by the public.

"What makes it all the more regrettable is that we've always enjoyed a good relationship with both of these councils, particularly in regard to the fight to save A&E at Prince Philip Hospital – and hopefully this unfortunate incident won't detract from that on-going and vitally important campaign.

"We received invitations to attend the meeting and believed we would be made welcome, in fact I still do not really understand why it was private in the first place. But that's a question for someone else to answer."

According to the Star, after refusing to return the notes to the Star clerk Galbraith apologised for his reaction but reiterated that the meeting was supposed to be private.

The Star reported him as saying to Welch: "It was a free round table discussion, not a full council meeting. It's unfortunate that there was a location mistake and due to you and Simon Thomas entering the meeting after introductions had been given, your identity as a member of the press was not clear.

"There wasn't a formal invitation to the press and the public and this is why you were asked to leave the meeting.

"We need to be working together to save the hospital… I apologise to you on a one to one basis."

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