Argyll and Bute Council has had to admit it overreacted, after it banned nine-year-old Martha Payne from taking pictures of her school dinners, which she published on her Never Seconds blog.
For the past few weeks, Payne had been documenting her school meals, drawing attention, at times unwanted, to Argyll and Bute Council's £2-meal initiative. But in an effort to stem the media backlash, the local council tried to censor the young pupil by banning her from taking pictures within the school.
On 14 June, Payne wrote on her blog: "This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today."
In a statement released earlier today, Argyll and Bute Council justified the photography ban. "Argyll and Bute Council wholly refutes the unwarranted attacks on its school's catering service, which culminated in national press headlines which have led catering staff to fear for their jobs," it says.
"The council has directly avoided any criticism of anyone involved in the Never Seconds blog for obvious reasons, despite a strongly held view that the information presented in it misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils. However, this escalation means we had to act to protect staff from the distress and harm it was causing. In particular, the photographic images uploaded appear to only represent a fraction of the choices available to pupils, so a decision has been made by the council to stop photos being taken in the school canteen."
But, faced with public outcry over the ban, the council has now been forced to lift the ban. Speaking to the BBC, council leader Roddy McCuish says: "There's no place for censorship in Argyll and Bute Council: there never has been and there never will be. I've just instructed senior officials to immediately withdraw the ban on pictures from the school dining hall. It's a good thing to do, to change your mind, and I've certainly done that."
Payne's blog has received more than two million hits and raised more than £10,000 for the Mary's Meals charity.
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