BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: In Depth: McLeish resignation  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
McLeish resignation Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 21:21 GMT
McConnell accused of media meddling
Jack McConnell
Mr McConnell was accused of seeking to vet stories
Scotland's first minister-elect has been accused of trying to censor a journalist in his constituency.

The National Union of Journalists has alleged that Jack McConnell insisted that a reporter on the Wishaw Press submit all copy to him to be vetted.

The alleged move followed a story about MSPs' allowances in the 17 October edition of the local paper.

Paul Holleran
Paul Holleran was asked to intervene
NUJ Scottish Organiser Paul Holleran said Mr McConnell called the deputy editor into his office the next day and insisted that all future stories by the reporter involved be seen by him in advance.

Opposition politicians said that the allegations were very serious and threatened to undermine Mr McConnell.

Mr Holleran was giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Justice Commitee, which has been holding an inquiry into the Freedom of Information Bill.

The union official said the education minister, who was elected Scottish Labour last week, had demanded a retraction and an apology from the paper.

Mr Holleran told MSPs that the journalist who wrote the story was also told that all of her work had to be run past the Motherwell and Wishaw MSP.

He said: "In the middle of last month, on October 17, a local paper carried a story relating to the then-education minister, Jack McConnell.

"It was a bland story in relation to expenses, MSPs' allowances.


Politicians also have a right to raise issues of concern with journalists

Labour spokesman
"The next day Mr McConnell summoned the deputy editor of the local paper to the constituency office situated across the road from the newspaper.

"The paper also received a demand for a written apology and a retraction of the story.

Mr Holleran said he was asked to intervene by the journalist concerned.

"She had been told that all of her copy in future was to be run past the local MSP and to be possibly vetted by Mr McConnell," said Mr Holleran.

"We invoked the grievance procedure and said we want this taken to the very top of the company and we want this stopped, we want this situation turned around."

'Freedom of speech'

Mr Holleran said the incident did not bode well for freedom of information.

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: "Jack McConnell has made clear his belief that journalists have a duty to scrutinise politicians.

"Politicians also have a right to raise issues of concern with journalists.

"As far as Jack McConnell is concerned, this matter was raised and settled to everyone's satisfaction."

Scottish National Party education spokesman Mike Russell said: "There is a principle of grave importance here. Freedom of speech is a central and sacred tenet of any democracy.

Annabel Goldie
Annabel Goldie: "Basic democratic principles"

"It would be utterly unacceptable if a Cabinet minister in Scotland is found to be bullying correspondents and editors into demanding they are allowed to vet articles."

The deputy leader of the Scottish Tories Annabel Goldie said: "If these allegations made by the NUJ are true, Jack McConnell will have demonstrated a quite alarming failure to grasp the basic principles of democracy.

"Instead of accepting the role of the media to assist in scrutinising the activities of the nation's political representatives, it would appear Mr McConnell thinks it should only cover news favourable to himself and the Labour Party."

Former first minister Henry McLeish resigned in a row over his expenses.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Glen Campbell reports
"The NUJ accused Mr McConnell of interference with his local paper"

Latest stories

TALKING POINT

Background

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

21 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
20 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
18 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
Links to more McLeish resignation stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more McLeish resignation stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes