Help protest media gag on civil servants
This week, the Government made changes to the Civil Service Code relating to contact with the media, bringing in a requirement that civil servants obtain Ministerial authorisation before any contact with the media.
This was done without the agreement of senior public service union the FDA, who had argued strenuously that the proposals were both unwarranted and unreasonable.
The changes to the Code are unwarranted as there was already clear guidance on contact with the media, requiring civil servants to maintain the highest standards of confidentiality, integrity and probity. And they’re unreasonable as the Government never advanced a justification as to why a blanket restriction was necessary.
The new rules offer little practical guidance for civil servants over what they may or may not say in public, and will put many in fear of disciplinary action whilst doing their jobs. Many civil servants routinely provide information to the media, helping keep our citizens informed on government business that affects them.
The FDA is worried that the hurdle of Ministerial authorisation before talking to journalists could introduce a conflict of interest against which there is no route of appeal. Plus the bureaucracy involved in delegating authority to thousands of civil servants in hundreds of different situations, simply has not been thought through, and could well make government communications unworkable.