Registering for the event this autumn will cost journalists £137 until July 1, and £880 afterwards
The decision by the ruling Conservative Party to charge journalists attending its annual conference is “undemocratic” and should be abandoned, a coalition of British media organizations has said.
A number of media outlets say the fees are ‘draconian’ and have refused to sign up for the Tory event, which will take place in Manchester in October, the Evening Standard reported on Saturday.
The Conservative Party had already charged journalists to cover the conference last year, saying it was necessary to prevent people from signing up for accreditation and not attending. The party is sticking to the same rules this year. Journalists will have to pay £137 ($169) until July 1 and £880 ($1,086) afterwards to register.
A coalition of industry bodies, which includes groups such as the News Media Association, Society of Editors, News Media Coalition, and Foreign Press Association, warns that the party of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is setting a “deeply concerning precedent in a democratic society.”
The coalition said that its members are “united in viewing as undemocratic and detrimental to the interests of society and the party itself” the decision by the Tories to charge journalists to attend the conference.
“In a democratic society, all party conferences are of considerable political and public importance and, as such, there should be no charging barrier for journalists to be able to act as the eyes and ears of the public by freely reporting at such events,” the statement read.
The annual Tory conference is more than just a local event, it also “provides a window for the global community to see UK democracy in action,” it added.
The authors of the statement say they have been trying to reach out to the ruling party to discuss the issue of fees for more than a year now, without results.
A Conservative Party spokesman told the Evening Standard that that the “modest charge was introduced to discourage over-accreditation by some media outlets.”
He claimed that in previous years, thousands of accredited journalists failed to show up, which cost the party tens of thousands of pounds for police security checks and created a lot of paper and plastic waste.
There are also exemptions for media outlets in complicated financial situations, he added.