Ipswich: New twist in banning of reporter Paul Geater saga

IPSWICH: It’s the story that’s got everyone talking – from those in the street to some of the country’s most influential journalists.

And today yet another twist has emerged in the saga involving Evening Star reporter Paul Geater’s “no comment” sanction from Suffolk County Council.

Now council leader, Jeremy Pembroke, has turned down the chance to meet the writer face to face so he can hear first-hand how the ban was put in place.

Mr Geater was told on Friday by a senior press officer that the council was no longer prepared to work with him and would meet his future requests for information with “no comment”.

Yesterday, Star editor Nigel Pickover offered Mr Pembroke the chance to meet Mr Geater.

But Mr Pembroke replied: “I believe I have made the position of the county council clear.

“Simon Higgins, head of communications, will continue to meet with yourself and Paul Geater as usual.”

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Last night, a spokesman for the county council re-iterated its claim Mr Geater had not been banned by the organisation.

Mr Geater, who has worked as local government correspondent for the Star since 1994, was told he was banned from the council following his exclusive story about chief executive Andrea Hill’s �12,000 sessions with a training guru.

Mr Pembroke had previously written to Star readers stating that Mr Geater had never been banned by the council.

But Mr Geater said: “I didn’t say they said I’d been banned from Endeavour House.

“The county council, in a very clear conversation I had with senior press officer Andrew St Ledger, told me quite categorically that any further requests for information would elicit a “no comment”.

“The conversation was seared on my brain because I have never had anything like this happen before in nearly 30 years of working in journalism.”

Meanwhile, the saga has attracted the attention of one of Britain’s best-known media commentators.

Roy Greenslade – former editor of The Mirror and consultant editor of The Sunday Times – has spoken out against the authority’s refusal on Friday to provide comment to our journalist.

He said: “It’s a disgrace and it’s a denial of accountability to the people who really matter – the voters.

“To impose a ban on a single journalist is a very grave step to take. It’s a threat to press freedom as we know it.”

n What’s your take on this latest twist? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.