Tower Hamlets council in East London today banned press photographers from two local council by-election counts today citing health and safety reasons and security concerns.
The East London Advertiser said it was the fourth election running in which the authority had banned its photographers from taking pictures of the count at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands today.
Deputy editor Ted Jeory said that a council official told him the room was too small for multiple photographers and he would have to rely on getting photos from a council photographer who work for its official newspaper East End Life who, according to the council, was only allowed access “for a limited time”.
Jeory told Press Gazette that the count rooms were large enough and that the health and safety claim was a ‘smokescreen’for council fears that Advertiser photographers would take the ‘wrong’kind of pictures. And he accused council authorities of behaving like they were in an “old Soviet Republic”.
Jeory said that a request for photographers to take turns photographing the count was also denied.
The paper said that at other election counts – which were going on in other parts of the same building – journalists were given unrestricted access.
Kelly Rickard, from the council’s communications department, said the council was following standard practice and that it had given the Advertiser ‘plenty of advance warning’of the ban. Letters had been sent explaining the rules and an announcement was made at the beginning of the day.
According to the paper the council previously banned all press photographers from the count at the Shadwell by-election last year, the borough-wide Town Hall elections in 2006 and the general election in 2005.