Even public bodies have right to privacy

First published in Letters

Sir – With reference to your editorial on April 16, titled “Free Speech is Fundamental”: there seems to be an argument about whether individual Witney town councillors can or cannot be allowed to answer questions from the media without first having written approval from the council.

The editorial argues that “democracy demands the freedom to give a view”.

Your front page backs up this editorial argument with quotations from other councils who share the same view as your paper, that, somehow, democracy is some kind of free-for-all. Democracy means that anyone can say anything at any time? Really?

I would argue that Witney Town Council has a point – even though your front page quoted our Prime Minister and MP David Cameron, who says that all public bodies should conduct business in a transparent way, as if Mr Cameron has some kind of monopoly on ideas, and that whatever he says must be truth.

Democracy means the right to privacy as well as the right to information. If someone asks a question, you have the right to refuse to answer, in a democracy.

Perhaps Witney Town Council is trying to be unambiguous, clear and avoiding confusion by having some kind of order in their proceedings.

To clamp down on the right to privacy is as undemocratic as is the right to acquire some information.

Some information should be private. Even public bodies have rights.

Dennis Perrin, Vale Road, Witney

Comments (1)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

9:41am Thu 8 May 14

Fred Chilvers says...

What confusion Dennis Perrin reveals in his letter. Of course, private individuals have a right to speak or to remain silent. Elected representatives, though, are not private individuals; they have a responsibility to represent their electorate and to communicate with them, explaining and justifying their actions and decisions as councillors, free from the gagging rules of any town clerk or other unelected officer.

A councillor who refuses to respond to legitimate questions reveals himself to be unworthy of holding office. On this at least, David Cameron is right.
What confusion Dennis Perrin reveals in his letter. Of course, private individuals have a right to speak or to remain silent. Elected representatives, though, are not private individuals; they have a responsibility to represent their electorate and to communicate with them, explaining and justifying their actions and decisions as councillors, free from the gagging rules of any town clerk or other unelected officer. A councillor who refuses to respond to legitimate questions reveals himself to be unworthy of holding office. On this at least, David Cameron is right. Fred Chilvers
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree