Press have been barred from attending two meetings about London’s rising murder rate because of strict rules governing publicity ahead of an election.
The Greater London Authority did not allow any journalists to attend today’s London Assembly meeting on knife crime in the capital.
Journalists were also banned from the Mayor’s Summit at City Hall (pictured) yesterday on the same issue, attended by mayor Sadiq Khan, a number of high-profile politicians and the Met Police commissioner.
The obstruction to the press – and the public – is the result of “purdah” which limits publicity from the time an election is announced until polling day. In this case local elections are due to take place nationwide on 3 May.
A number of London Assembly members are understood to be standing for election, or re-election, as London borough councillors, being able to hold both roles at the same time.
The decision to bar journalists from the meetings, despite intense media interest in the recent spate of killings in the capital, was made by the GLA’s monitoring officer.
The GLA said that during the pre-election period it applies the following policy: “Publicity will not deal with controversial issues or report views, proposals or recommendations in such a way that identifies them with individual politicians or their party groups.”
It added: “It is acceptable for the bodies / individual members to respond in appropriate circumstances to events and to legitimate service enquiries, provided that the replies are factual and not party political in tone or content (they should not seek to affect support, in any way, for parties or candidates).”
Only publicity that is “properly part of routine business” and is “necessary in order to discharge statutory requirements that are required to be undertaken at that point in time” is permitted by the GLA.
But, it said this did not prevent the Mayor or Assembly Members from making media statements before or after the meeting. The Guardian carried a report on the Mayor’s Summit yesterday.
While London Assembly meetings are typically live-streamed, these past two meetings were held in private and so not broadcast.