Press freedom in Tower Hamlets – formal complaint re Takki Sulaiman


To: Stephen Halsey, Head of Paid Service, Tower Hamlets council

Date: 14 June 2014

Formal Complaint re Takki Sulaiman

I would like to lodge a formal complaint regarding the veracity of a statement made by Mr. Takki Sulaiman to me on 12th June 2014 regarding the ejection of Mr. Ted Jeory from a Tower Hamlet’s council meeting the previous evening.

Due to the serious nature of this complaint I would ask that it be handled by the Corporate Complaints Team at Stage 3 level.

As a borough resident I do not believe Mr. Sulaiman’s account of events will bear scrutiny, especially when many people regard this as a blatant attempt by a Council officer to restrict the ability of the press to report on Council business.

Mr. Sulaiman sent me this email in response to my questioning his motives for throwing Mr. Jeory out of the Town Hall (I have added numbers for ease of reference):

“Dear Mr Baynes

1)    No one should be called a pr**k for performing their duties. As the Prime Minister said yesterday respect is an abiding British value – unless you believe journalists should be exempt from notions of courtesy?

2)    My staff member was seated because she is disabled and it was when I pointed this out to Mr Jeory – in response to his tweet – that he called me a pr**k.

3)    Mr Jeory performs a valuable service in the borough but his conduct today was uncalled for. If a member of the public behaved in a similar way to a non staff member we would have faced calls for action and rightly so. It is a perverse argument to suggest that because I am a senior member of staff I should somehow accept abuse.

4)    Mr Jeory was not ‘seated at the back’. Not only was he late for the meeting but journalists were emailed twice about reserving seats for tonight. Mr Jeory did not respond – although he says the email was not received so I will check our records in the morning.

5)    We have a busy public gallery and two rows were kept empty tonight – we only released them at 7.30 when no one turned up.

Yours sincerely

Takki Sulaiman”

Basis of Complaint

I do not believe this is an accurate record of events for the following reasons:

Paragraph 5 – M. Sulaiman states that “two rows were kept empty tonight – we only released them at 7.30 when no one turned up.”

Adam Barnett of the East London Advertiser arrived before Mr. Jeory but was seated four or five rows back.

Why was this if, as Mr. Sulaiman claims, two rows at the front were kept empty for the press? Why was Adam Barnett not seated in the front two rows?

Were any seats specifically reserved for the press? If they were reserved is this documented?

Talking to Mr. Jeory he says that he did not turn up late and this can be verified by:

  • Examination of the visitors’ log book in the reception
  • Checking with Tower Hamlet’s First councillors, including Cllr. Oliur Rahman, who Mr. Jeory was speaking to before the meeting started
  • By Mr. Sulaiman’s fellow council officers present at the time
  • By the fact the seats were apparently released well before 7.20pm (if they were ever reserved of course.)

I would ask that this matter be investigated and the results published as soon as possible.

At a time when our borough is in the news for all the wrong reasons I and many other residents find it astounding that Mr. Sulaiman should seek to restrict the ability of Mr. Jeory to report on Council meetings as he is legally entitled to do and then seem to change his account of events to suit his purpose.

If an enquiry finds that this is the case I would expect Mr. Sulaiman to be deemed unfit to hold the position of Service Head, Communications and Marketing.

Please do not under estimate the seriousness with which residents of Tower Hamlets like myself view any attempt to restrict the ability of the free press to carry out its functions.

I look forward to your response,

Mark Baynes

Note: Main graphic text reads ” Deep-rooted press freedom is not just important but essential to a functioning free democratic society” 
Dan Jellinek