N. Ireland Politics

Karen Bradley criticised by NUJ for snubbing media

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Media captionKaren Bradley refuses to answer questions from the press at Stormont on Thursday

The Northern Ireland secretary has been criticised by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) for refusing to take questions from the media.

After political talks at Stormont on Thursday, Karen Bradley spoke to the press for one minute and declined to take any questions from journalists.

It is the latest occasion on which she has refused to take questions.

But the government said on Friday that Mrs Bradley had the "utmost respect for the media".

After Mrs Bradley's appearance at the media microphones on Thursday, Tánaiste (Irish deputy prime minister) Simon Coveney spoke to reporters for 10 minutes and took questions.

Leaders of the Northern Ireland political parties also answered questions from the media.

Ciarán Ó Maoláin, a member of the NUJ's national executive and the secretary of the union's Belfast branch, said that Mrs Bradley's reluctance to engage with the media was "especially disgraceful in a week that has brought to the fore issues around freedom of information and the role of the media in a democratic society".

Freedom of the press

He added: "We all want to see progress in politics and that requires informed debate, transparency and honesty on all sides.

"For a government minister to treat journalists with apparent contempt - refusing to take a single question when so many important issues are being discussed - does nothing to advance the political process."

Journalists who were at Stormont House on Thursday posted on Twitter about Mrs Bradley's brief appearance before them.

The government said that Mrs Bradley had "made clear" before the latest Stormont talks that "she would not be providing a running commentary" on what was happening.

"It is an extremely sensitive and delicate time and the secretary of state is focused on doing everything in her power to make a success of the talks process," it added.

Before Mrs Bradley was appointed Northern Ireland secretary in January 2018, she was the government's culture secretary.

In that role she had responsibility for the media and often spoke about the freedom of the press.

In 2016, she said: "A free press must be allowed to continue to hold the government to account."

Since becoming Northern Ireland secretary, she has routinely refused to answer questions in public from journalists.

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