Tories Criticised For £137 Charge To Report On Annual Conference

The Conservative Party has been accused of setting a dangerous precedent after it announced that journalists would be charged a £137  accreditation fee to report on its annual conference.

According to The Guardian:

The criticism came in a letter signed by nearly 300 news organisations, including the Society of Editors, Foreign Press Association (FPA), News Media Association, Reporters Without Borders and the European Association of News Agencies.

“We believe that a fundamental tenet of a free and democratic society is allowing journalists – from all over the world – to freely report on matters of public interest,” it says.

“We have not found any comparable charges in any other country in the world, let alone in any other democracy.”

No other British political party charges for press accreditation, but a fee was introduced last year by the Tories.

The charge of £137 for each journalist’s application is being justified by the party on the basis that it is necessary to address the “tens of thousands of pounds” cost of security checks for people accrediting but not turning up.

The cost of accreditation for the conference, which will be held in Manchester over the course of four days at the start of October, will rise to £880 for journalists who apply after the end of July.

The letter continues: “This decision sets a dangerous precedent for countries all over the world who will use this decision to justify financial and other barriers to media scrutiny of the political process.”

It is signed by media organisations from countries including the US and France, Russia, China and Saudi Arabia.

Andrew Moger, the chief executive of the News Media Coalition, a group of international news agencies and publications focused on press freedom, said that asking journalists “to contribute to the funds of a political party” through an administration fee was at odds with ministers’ claims to back “a thriving press sector and press freedom”.

A Conservative party spokesperson said: “A modest charge was introduced last year to discourage over-accreditation by some media outlets. At one recent conference, several thousand people who applied for free media accreditation failed to collect their passes, generating large amounts of paper and plastic waste.

“In previous years, police security checks for non-attenders have cost the party tens of thousands of pounds. We do not believe members and other attenders should effectively subsidise this.”

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