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Wiltshire Council attacks press freedom

May 25, 2011 8:29 AM

Wiltshire Council has made it clear it will not allow newspapers operating within the county to be less than fully adulatory about the council.

"The Valley News," which is published in the villages in the Nadder valley, has been barred from Amesbury library. Copies donated to the library by the publishers were destroyed by the librarian on the orders of Wiltshire Council.

The dispute centres around articles allegedly critical of the council, which the regime at County Hall is unable to tolerate.

At the council meeting on May 18th 2010 I asked why the ban was imposed. The responsible 'cabinet member' John Thompson denied there was a ban, saying the publication had been withdrawn from the Leisure Centre in Tisbury following an article critical of Wiltshire Council, in which the official line that the council had made "vast savings" during local government reorganisation was questioned.

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You decide. Thompson says there's no ban. Here's an extract from an email from a council officer ordering withdrawal of Valley News from libraries. Would you say it constituted a ban?

"On the advice of Allan Clarke in Communication, we were not to display the Valley News in any Wiltshire library, though we could keep one reference copy for local information. The reason for this is that Wiltshire Council have taken the publication to the Ombudsman. The additional copies were put in the recycling bin."

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Note that in these environmentally aware days the authorities don't burn publications they disapprove of, they recycle them.

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