Lib-dems criticised over 'Norfolk Gazette newspaper'
- Credit: Supplied by Martyn Sloman
Norfolk's Liberal Democrats have been criticised for producing a political publication which has the appearance of a local newspaper.
The Gazette is not branded as a Lib Dem publication, and only says it was produced by the party in a line of small print on the back page.
Steffan Aquarone, who is county councillor for Melton Constable, said the Lib Dems delivered copies of their four-page 'Norfolk Gazette' to homes in parts of the county in January and February, mostly by volunteers but some through Royal Mail's 'Door to Door' service.
Martyn Sloman, from Sharrington, near Holt, was among those who received a copy of the 'Gazette'.
Mr Sloman, who is secretary of the North Norfolk Labour Party, said the publication was misleading.
He said: "Local newspapers provide an essential underpinning of our democratic process and it is important that their integrity and objectivity should be protected.
"Passing off a propaganda sheet as a newspaper is shabby practice and this example is particularly so."
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But Mr Aquarone said the Gazette was not false or misleading, and although its articles took a political stance, they were "factually based".
He said: “We’ve chosen to develop a news brand that gets distributed to our target audience. It’s something we feel has a role to play separate from having the Phoenix and yellow logo over it.
“The feedback is usually very good - it’s usually just political opponents who don’t like it.”
Last year the Society of Editors launched a 'campaign for real news' to oppose publications from "unbalanced, partisan non-media operations".
Ian Murray, the society's former chairman who this week resigned from his post, spoke out about the issue in February after the Lib Dems put out a similar publication to the Norfolk Gazette in Welwyn Hatfield.
After writing to Lib Dems' leader Ed Davey last month, Mr Murray said: “It seems that no matter how many times this issue is raised the Lib Dems continue to pretend there is not a problem here.
“The simple fact is that if the party were serious about not attempting to mislead the public in this way then a plain – and large – Lib Dems logo on the front page of their local publications would do the trick."