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Council propaganda sheets hit real journalism and public debate

PUBLISHED: 14:24 08 March 2010 | UPDATED: 15:41 05 October 2010

Dear Ed, THANKS to the East London Advertiser for drawing attention to the effect of council propaganda sheets on genuine journalism and public debate. But if there is no monitoring and no sanctions, it doesn’t matter how strict or permissive the Local Authority Publicity Code may be

Dear Ed,

THANKS to the East London Advertiser for drawing attention to the effect of council propaganda sheets such as Tower Hamlets' own, unloved, 'East End Lies' on genuine journalism and public debate (Advertiser Website, March 5).

However, if there is no monitoring and no sanctions, it doesn't matter how strict or permissive in the current case the Local Authority Publicity Code may be.

Here are responses from people and organisations I have approached: previous mayor with a patronising brush-off, Tower Hamlets Council's so-called 'complaints' department with childish and evasive replies to simple questions and refusal to discuss, the council's scrutiny with no reply, but apparently a message passed to head of communications (the fox guards the chickens!), the Local Government Ombudsman deciding that it was out of their scope, the Press Commission saying it is not registered as a newspaper (indeed this is correct, it isn't a newspaper!) and Poplar MP Jim Fitzpatrick refusing to do anything (well, it's 'his' party running Tower Hamlets).

This means that with a local authority like Tower Hamlets with no respect for transparency, full-disclosure or genuine debate, there is no systematic defence against such subsidised publishing. This is why I will be making complaints to the police and the Electoral Commission about any (East End Life) or other excesses during the pre-election period.

Meanwhile, we need both a tighter code, sanctions and (preferably) public servants and politicians capable of understanding that (as Orwell said) "in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

Hugh Barnard

Newell Street, Limehouse


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