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May 2, 2017

Local reporters ‘shut in a room’ during Theresa May visit to Cornish industrial estate

By Freddy Mayhew

Reporters for regional news website Cornwall Live were told they were not allowed to film the Prime Minister’s visit to their patch today because they were invited as “print media” only.

Two reporters and a photographer for the Trinity Mirror website, which includes content from its weekly newspapers across the South West, were sent down to cover Theresa May’s visit to an industrial estate in Helston – as part of the Tory leader’s campaign trail.

Cornwall digital editor Jacqui Merrington told Press Gazette: “When we arrived there we were told we were not allowed to film anything because we were invited as print media, which seems a bit 20th century really.”

She said that while their photographer was allowed to follow Theresa May on her visit and take still images, the two reporters were “shut in a room” for the duration and told they could only ask two questions of May in an interview at the end of her visit, which they also were not allowed to film.

Merrington said the website, which she claimed has about 100,000 daily page impressions, was live blogging the tour and had hoped to do some video for Facebook Live as well.

“It felt very tightly controlled,” said Merrington.

“I think if [May] is going to come out on visits on the campaign trail the purpose of it should be for her to, if not meet members of the public, then at least show the public that she is there and we would be able to see what she’s talking about, what issues are being raised with her. We weren’t able to do that because we couldn’t see her talking to anyone else.

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“Many of us here have had experiences with former leaders and while there have of course been restrictions, it didn’t feel as tightly controlled as this.”

She added: “To think that in this day and age – we were and still are a local newspaper, but we are a lot more than that. We are digital media and that is the case for most local media nowadays and to be restricted on that basis seems very archaic.

“We are quite a sizeable website and a large proportion of our audience comes through digital as well as the weekly papers.”

May is understood to have done televised interviews with the BBC and ITV during her visit.

Merrington said she had “put a call into Number 10” ahead of the visit to “try and argue our case to be able to film” and said she would follow up on the matter.

“If nothing else it would be nice to see, in the future, local media treated as local media and not just local newspapers,” she said.

On the live blog, reporters shared updates on the press restrictions they faced at the scene.

In successive entries, one including a picture of the door to the room they had been kept in, they said: “We’ve been told by the PM’s press team that we were not allowed to stand outside to see Theresa May arrive.

“The prime minister is behind this door – but we can’t show you. Her press team has said print journalists are not allowed to see her visiting the company.

“Theresa May is being introduced to company representatives on the shop floor, but journalists have been kept away. We’ll be allowed to ask her questions later in a separate room.

“Conservative party press officers continue to refuse Cornwall Live access to film an interview with the PM.

“Having covered several high-profile politicians’ and royal visits over the years, the level of media control here is far and above anything I’ve seen before. We’re not even allowed to show you her visiting the building.

“Here is another example of the tight media control over the visit: All journalists are only allowed two questions for Mrs May, and we are not allowed to film her answering our questions.

“We’ve been allowed to ask our questions to the prime minister (although we are forbidden to film or photograph her answering them).

“We were given at most three minutes and were refused to be allowed to ask why we were not allowed to film her. Our reporter Lyn was then ushered out of the room.”

A spokesperson for the Conservative Party said: “One media organisation’s last minute request to add a camera to a pre-arranged pool of broadcast cameras was not possible this morning.

“The organisation’s journalists did interview the Prime Minister and their photographer accompanied the Prime Minister on a factory tour.

“Theresa May has so far taken four times as many questions from journalists as floundering Jeremy Corbyn while his cabinet can’t even answer basic questions about how they would pay for his nonsensical policies.”

Picture: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

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