03/20/2014 05:47 EDT | Updated 05/20/2014 05:59 EDT

Media banned from reporting on St. John's public meetings

There's a difference of opinion for some people at St. John's City Hall, after the city's communications department ordered that media would not be permitted to report on what is said at some public meetings.

The city said it will be holding five public information sessions in April to talk about green spaces and parks, but local media won't be able to report what is said.

Erwin Warkentin, coordinator of communications studies at Memorial University, said banning media from reporting on what is supposed to be public information is counterproductive.

"I don't think they have a room that would actually fit everyone in the community, so they have to have some sort of an outlet to let the greater community know what's going on, and that clearly isn't happening here," Warkentin said.

According to Warkentin, this kind of move isn't in the public's best interests.

"They're creating a safe environment for the politicians and the administrators and the consultants. I don't think that there's any concern about creating a safe environment for the public," he said.

Ward 2 Coun. Jonathan Galgay, who is chairing these meetings, said he has no problem allowing media to report on what goes on.

"I certainly oppose any type of a decision to restrict the media or any individual from participating," Galgay said.

Council striving for more openness

Media have always previously reported on public consultations in St. John's, but Galgay said the city's communications department told him the consultants in these sessions wanted to change that.

"I think one thing that we've learned from this today is to ensure that any type of consultants that we engage in the future, that there is a portion in their contract which states that the media will be participating in these sessions," he said.

According to Galgay, city council has been striving to be more open and communicative with the public, and this isn't the way to do it.

"To start off limiting the media and participation is certainly a wrong step forward, and it's something I am not willing to support," he said.

Galgay said St. John's councillors are elected to be spokespersons for the city, and any decision that restricts or allows participation in public meetings would come from council itself, not the communications department.

The communications department didn't return CBC News interview requests at time of publication.