Liverpool

Cheshire West and Chester Council split over Sun Hillsborough ban

Headline of The Sun, 19 April 1989: "Truth" showing false claims about the Hillsborough victims
Image caption The Sun's front page headline on 19 April 1989 - four days after the Hillsborough disaster

A local authority's plans to ban staff and councillors from speaking to The Sun in protest at the paper's coverage of Hillsborough have been called an attack on "freedom of expression".

A motion at a Cheshire West and Chester Council meeting on Thursday condemned The Sun for its "lies and slurs" about the 1989 disaster, in which 96 died.

The Sun, which has previously apologised, declined to comment.

But the Society of Editors said banning media "is how dictatorships start".

Spokesman Ian Murray said the proposed ban would undermine the democratic principle of freedom of speech.

The Sun has been widely boycotted in Merseyside ever since it published a front-page story, headlined The Truth, in the wake of the football stadium tragedy on 15 April 1989.

Image caption Ninety-six Liverpool fans were fatally crushed at the 1989 Hillsborough disaster

Ninety-six Liverpool fans were fatally crushed at an FA Cup semi-final at Sheffield Wednesday's ground.

At last year's inquests in Warrington, the jury concluded that all had been unlawfully killed.

At a council meeting in Winsford, Labour's Paul Donovan proposed a motion to "ensure that elected members and staff do not advertise or give interviews to The S*n (sic) newspaper". Getty Images

The motion read: "This council recognises and will not forget the hurt and distress caused to the families and friends of the 96 during this period, not least in part due to lies and slurs published in a British national newspaper."

But Conservative councillor Neil Sullivan said the vote was "an attempt to restrict a free press".

And the leader of the opposition Conservative group Lynn Riley told the meeting: "However abhorrent the actions of The Sun... it is for members of the council to choose to speak to it or not."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Sun has since apologised for its coverage of the Hillsborough disaster where 96 people died

Labour's Richard Beacham, who seconded the motion, said it was "not about curtailing free speech", but "disengaging" with The Sun.

A third Labour politician, Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders, told the BBC: "I don't know why anyone would want to speak to them anyway."

Thirty-seven councillors voted in support of the motion, whilst 31 Conservative councillors abstained. One councillor voted against it.

The Sun said it had no comment on the vote, although the newspaper and the editor at the time of the disaster have previously apologised.

Council officials will now investigate whether and how the contents of the motion can become official council policy.

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