CAMERAS have this week been firmly fixed on the court in which ‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorius is standing trial over the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
It was a landmark ruling to allow the world’s eyes to watch the court’s proceedings.
In fact, here too in the UK, the public have been able to witness public proceedings in a way they have never been able to before.
Stroud District Council film their meetings and stream them online, opening the door in the most transparent of ways.
A diktat from the Government’s secretary of state for communities Eric Pickles told local authorities that they must allow the public and press to film meetings if they wish to do so.
Gloucester City Council leader Paul James previously said in November 2013 that he had ‘no problem’ with meetings being filmed.
So it was much to my surprise that leading city councillor Gordon Taylor barred the press and public from taking photos or filming his planning committee meeting on Tuesday night. He warned members of the public and the press (me) at the start of the meeting that filming and photography would not be allowed.
It comes after I filmed some of the last planning meeting in a bid to allow readers to have an inside view of the meeting.
I did this, of course, in light of what Paul James said on the issue last year. Mr James was asked by a member of the public at a meeting if he would allow such activity. At the time he said: “My personal view is that I have not got a problem with it whatsoever. I think much of the meetings would be of little interest to most, but there may be some contributions that would go viral.”
And on Tuesday night Paul told me: “I don’t have any problem with it. It’s polite to ask for permission first though. My only complaint about your last film was I couldn't make out a word of what was said!”
Now let me remind Gordon of the Severn Principles of Public Life, as set out by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, which were agreed by a full meeting of councillors, including Gordon, back in January. One of them encourages councillors to follow the principle of ‘openness’. It reads: “Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.”
Citizen readers seemingly don’t think Gordon has been transparent on this issue.
Phillip Skill, head of planning for Stroud District Council, said: “Stroud Planning Committee is filmed by our own cameras and broadcast to the world from the website. Transparent.”
Another reader said: “What has Gordon Taylor got to hide? Gordon needs to remember: he works for us.”
A fellow reader responded: “You took the words right out of my mouth. Hope voters remember this blatant disregard for openness at the next election.”
Another added: “Can’t see whats wrong with not allowing it all to be filmed and photos to be taken.”
The people have spoken. Isn't it time to allow filming and photography?