Independent press a cornerstone of democracy says top judge

The Lord Chief Justice, the top judge in England and Wales, has said that an independent press and an independent judiciary are the cornerstones of democracy and should work hand in hand to ensure they remain so.

Speaking at the Society of Editors’ annual conference, Lord Judge said that the fabric of society was based on a free press and independent judiciary and urged journalists to ensure they kept reporting what local authorities and councils are doing. Expressing his concern over the fact that reporters were an increasingly rare sight when it came to council and local authority meetings, he said “I do not want the press to be the broadsheet of the local authority or the Government.” and “I do not want court proceedings to be reported by local authority communications departments”.

Due to budget cuts and a drive for more popular stories, papers, especially local ones, do not, as used to be the case, maintain a more or less permanent presence at council or local authority meetings from where they would file reports on the proceedings and what was being done by elected local politicians in our communities. The current trend is to reprint press releases that have been issued by local authority civil servants without the scrutiny or questioning that forms part of the democratic process and holds local councillors politicians to account.

Similarly, Lord Judge said that court proceedings should also be kept in check but was equally concerned that there had been a similar decline in reporting of local courts: “I am not comfortable with the thought that there is no-one to go into the court and observe and write up. If there is no-one to walk in, the public interest is damaged. That is the harsh reality.”

Society of Editors

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