ELECTED representatives are banned from speaking to the media on behalf of the council without the permission of the mayor.
Councillor Mark Rodda has slammed changes to Tamworth Regional Council's (TRC) media policy as an attempt to gloss over issues, or sanitise stories.
"I believe that journalists and the media play an important role in democracy, reporting on matters that impact our stakeholders and residents," he said.
"Why should they have to go cap-in-hand to paid council employees to ask who they can speak to about an issue or matter of concern, particularly if they are seeking the views of the elected councillors, not the official view?
"I fear this policy lacks the transparency our community needs and expects."
The mayor is the principle spokesperson for the council under the policy and can delegate that role to other councillors.
But without his or her permission, "no other councillor is to engage with media to speak on behalf of council".
Councillors will be given specific focus areas to speak on, from sport to the King George Avenue V working group, or the crime prevention working group.
Anything outside of their delegations would need to be approved by the mayor, but Cr Col Murray argues councillors are still free to share their personal views under the policy.
"That was just a procedural motion, the mayor of the day is the official spokesperson," he said.
"The motion certainly doesn't prevent any councillor from talking to any media about anything, it's just that the process doesn't permit them to speak on behalf of the organisation.
"They can express their own views, they can express any views they like except the views of the council."
The Office of Local Government confirmed that under the act, the mayor is the principle spokesperson of a governing body.
A spokesman said that while elected representatives are required to work together in the best interests of the community, they are free to express their personal views and no council in NSW should seek to gag its councillors.
"In practical terms, this means that 'councillors remain free to speak about the policies and decisions of the council but they must accept and abide by them and not misrepresent them'," he said.
"Council media policies should seek to strike a balance between allowing councillors to express their personal opinions in the media while making it clear that it is theirs and not that of the organisation."
The policy also requests media will be "required" to submit any request for comment through the TRC communications team.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: