The right of social media users and bloggers in England to film and report meetings of their local councils is confirmed in a new guide published by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Ministers have intervened after reports that some councils had blocked the filming and reporting of meetings, citing both health and safety and data protection laws.
Available online, the document makes clear that councillors and council officers can be filmed during meetings and that there is no prohibition on such activity under the Data Protection Act or health and safety legislation.
The guide says rules introduced by the last government failed ensure sufficient access to information and transparency and that new rules have been introduced to redress the shortcomings.
It explains the obligations of councils to publish information both before and after meetings and confirms that “there can be social media reporting of meetings.”
The guidance states: “bloggers, tweeters, Facebook and YouTube users, and individuals with their own website, should be able to report meetings.”
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said he wanted “to stand up for the rights of journalists and taxpayers to scrutinise and challenge decisions of the state”.
He added: “Modern technology has created a new cadre of bloggers and hyper-local journalists, and councils should open their digital doors and not cling to analogue interpretations of council rules.
“Councillors shouldn’t be shy about the public seeing the good work they do in championing local communities and local interests.”