UK: RSF welcomes Conservative Party decision to scrap charges for journalists reporting on party conference
The UK’s ruling Conservative Party has dropped plans to charge journalists to access its annual party conference, following backlash from news industry organisations. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes this decision, and calls on all political parties to guarantee journalists can report freely and fairly on democratic processes.
The party had previously planned to charge journalists £137 (€160) for accreditation to attend the October conference, claiming the fee was to discourage “over-accreditation”. Following months of discussions, industry representatives said the charge would be scrapped, journalists who had already paid would be refunded, and the deadline to apply for a free press pass would be extended until 31 August.
“It’s a relief to see the Conservative Party will no longer charge journalists to cover its party conference. The public has a right to know what happens at such important political gatherings, and obstructing press access would have set a dangerous precedent. The decision to scrap all charges going forward is very welcome.”
Fiona O’Brien, UK Bureau Director.
Welcoming the decision, the Society of Editors – part of a coalition of industry bodies who had protested the charges – said its concern had been the dangerous precedent that any fee could set, and its impact on press freedom more widely.
“All party conferences provide a valuable opportunity for political parties to communicate their policies to the public, and ahead of an anticipated general election year, the ability of the media to scrutinise and report freely from such events remains especially important and vital for democracy,” a coalition statement said.
The UK is ranked 26th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index.