A Scottish council reverses its decision to gag a nine-year-old blogger whose fundraising blog about school dinners has gained worldwide popularity.
Martha Payne's blogging days appeared to be over after Argyll and Bute Council banned her from taking any more photos in the school canteen at Lochgilphead Primary School.
But after a social media outcry, the council leader announced that it had reversed its decision adding that there was "no place for censorship in this ouncil".
The nine-year-old from Argyll in Scotland had been posting photographs of her school dinners and sharing other children's pictures on her blog, which managed to attract more than two million page views.
The council decided to take action following the Daily Record's coverage of Martha's cookery lesson with the Scottish chef Nick Nairn, which appeared to criticise the council.
The school had informed Martha of the decision and on Thursday she shared the news with her readers in a post: "This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today."
After realising the popularity of her blog, Never Seconds, she decided to mobilise her readers to contribute towards the target of a £7,000 donation to Africa school food charity Mary's Meals.
Martha's father Dave put a message on the blog thanking her school for its support from the beginning."I contacted Argyll and Bute Council when Martha told me what happened at school today and they told me it was their decision to ban Martha's photography.
"It is a shame that a blog that today went through 2 million hits, which has inspired debates at home and abroad and raised nearly £2,000 for charity is forced to end," he added.
The council's decision provoked a storm on Twitter with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver among those backing the young blogger. "Stay strong Martha, RT this to show your support #neverseconds," Mr Oliver tweeted.
This refuted the "unwarranted attacks" on its schools catering service in national press headlines. It said these led catering staff to fear for their job and claimed the blog "misrepresented" the options available to pupils.
But it later relented and in another statement, council leader Roddy McCuish said he had asked senior officials to consider withdrawing the ban on pictures fom the school dining hall until a report could be considered on the issue.
Mr McCuish, who described Martha as an "enterprising and imaginative pupil", added that he would meet her along with her father to seek "her continued engagement, along with lots of other pupils, in helping the council to get this issue right".
But he added that there was no place for the inaccurate and abusive attack on catering and dining hall staff.
"That, of course, was not the fault of the blog, but of the paper," he said.
Some bloggers have been sympathetic to the council's original decision. On his blog, photographer Paul Clarke acknowleged that the council's handling of the situation was a "massive PR fail", but pointed out that with children allowed to bring mobiles into school, some policing was necessary.
"If you don't have some pretty blunt lines about user-generated content that puts the school at its very heart, things will get really sticky down the line. What sort of guidelines would be nuanced enough to do a 'some things are ok to blog, some things aren't' job? I wouldn’t fancy writing them (and I’ve written a few)."
22 May 2012