Bristol mayor criticised for remarks about reporter

Bristol Post front page 11 December, 2019 Image copyright Bristol Post
Image caption The Bristol Post's editor Mike Norton said the council should have used the "proper channels" if it wanted to complain

Bristol's mayor has been called "childish" by a newspaper editor after one of his reporters was "publicly ridiculed" during a council meeting.

Local democracy reporter Adam Postans was criticised by some councillors after a Bristol Post article about a new waste site.

At the meeting mayor Marvin Rees quipped no journalists were present.

Bristol City Council said if "reporters become activists they should not complain if they are tackled".

The row broke out following a series of tweets made by Mr Postans, who is funded by the BBC and employed by the Bristol Post, during a cabinet meeting on 3 December.

A week earlier he had written a news story about the cost of a "new rubbish dump" almost doubling.

During the meeting Mr Postans tweeted: "Mayor Marvin Rees begins with a big smile and a bit of banter aimed at me. 'I wish we had a journalist here.' Nicely done :-)."

The comments were made while the microphones were switched off, just before the meeting began.

All council meetings are streamed on the council's website.

In it Mr Rees can be heard saying he was "glad" the recycling centre's full name had been used in the meeting, adding: "I saw some really poor writing that described this as a tip, a city dump.

"It's not a dump and I'm sure you'd agree that is an appalling way of describing a critical intervention in the way the city relates to, manages and processes its waste."

The Bristol Post's editor Mike Norton said the council should have used the "proper channels" if it wanted to complain.

"[Mr Rees] started the meeting by saying there aren't any journalists here even though the journalist was there.

"[Then] with other people he proceeded to used the meeting to criticise things the journalist had written.

"We've got a video on our website, the highlights if you like of all the moments... it's just the most extraordinary choreographed, childish, reprehensible behaviour."

Mr Norton added: "The local democracy service is about applying extra scrutiny to the cut-and-thrust of council business, and this is a council which objects to that scrutiny."

Image copyright Bristol Live/David Betts Photography
Image caption Adam Postans is a local democracy reporter employed by the Bristol Post and funded by the BBC

Mr Rees had previously complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) over a news story Mr Postans had written about his salary.

The complaint was not upheld.

A spokesman for the mayor said that while the authority welcomed the scrutiny journalists provided, it was important they were "challenged" if the public were "misinformed or confused".

A BBC spokesperson said the network of 150 local democracy reporters performed a "vital public service" and reporters "know the high journalistic standards we expect".

They added: "We have no concerns about the reporting here. If others disagree, there are appropriate channels to raise concerns. We note the press regulator IPSO has thrown out a complaint in this case."

Since the article was published in the Bristol Post, Liberal Democract councillor Tim Kent has filed an official complaint against the spokesperson at the city council.

He tweeted: "Just made a formal complaint against the spokesperson @BristolCouncil for false and politically motivated statements in breach of code of conduct and law. The politicisation of our council has gone too far. @BristolLive @bbcrb @bristol247

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