Letter: Fake news - Encourage the freedom of speech

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I was delighted to see the Advertiser’s announcement (May 4, 2017) that it is joining forces with other newspaper titles around the country to fight hoax news stories.

But I hope you will be just as intolerant of what I regard as another, equally insidious, aspect of fake news; which is to ignore real news stories in favour of what are essentially recycled press releases.

Most readers will naturally assume that the stories which appear in the Advertiser each week are those you have judged to be the most important and newsworthy. Yet it sometimes appears as if every other story is about the good works of local charities or Harrogate companies telling us how good they are.

There is surprisingly little coverage of Harrogate Council, whose actions and decisions have a serious impact on the lives and livelihoods of the people of this borough; and therefore, surely the newspaper has a duty to report and scrutinise its affairs? Indeed, you claim to be “passionate and exquisitely professional about the way in which we hold decision makers to account”.

However, you will be aware that for several weeks now I have been trying to persuade you to run a story highlighting the success of my long-running campaign to prove that when Harrogate Council axed men-only bathing sessions at the town’s Turkish Baths in December 2011, the decision was unlawful.

With enormous reluctance, the council has now acknowledged it was in breach of equalities legislation for more than 4.5 years, which is a disgrace; yet there hasn’t been a single word about this in your newspaper.

Similarly, you never seem to have found space to explain Harrogate Council’s adoption of a so-called “no blame culture”, which appears to mean that no officer is ever held responsible for mistakes or misjudgements they make. This is the stuff of La-La Land.

Surely the public (your readers) are entitled to expect that council officers (who are paid from the public purse) should be held fully accountable for any decisions they make? And I would have thought this was a story well worth reporting.

In your article about fighting fake news, you claimed that the Harrogate Advertiser always seeks to do the right thing, no matter how difficult; and that you keep integrity at the heart of everything you do.

In which case, I trust you also take pride in providing a platform for a healthy exchange of views – even when, occasionally, the view expressed is critical of your own publication. Because that too is healthy.

And since one presumes you are fully in favour of the principle of freedom of the press, one hopes you would also wish to encourage and embrace the equally important principle of freedom of speech and expression?

Peter Lilley

Valley Drive,