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Internet row hits RIBA region

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The chairman of the Camden Society of Architects claimed this week that the riba acted like 'Big Brother' after it refused to allow links to his branch's Internet site for fear of upsetting potential clients, and 'censored' claims he made on the institute's ribanet service.

Iain Meek, as Camden chairman, is also a member of London Region council. He told aj this week that he had doubts about its 'decision-making, leadership and transparency' and had posted comments to that effect on RIBANET, including criticisms of London Region director Stephen Robinson and chair Valerie Owen. But, after only hours, the institute cut the notice, saying that members of staff should never be criticised in a 'public' place. Meek then chose to relate this episode on his society's web page, including a meeting with director general Alex Reid. In the branch report he claims to have been 'ejected' from Reid's office for his 'effrontery in posting naughty messages'.

The riba has now rejected Meek's bid, over the last six months, to install a link from the Camden Society's site to the London Region's website. This is because, he has been told, it is not positive in attitude to the riba and could scare off potential clients from commissioning architects. 'It looks a bit like censorship doesn't it?' said Meek. 'I think the riba's being Big Brotherish and totally secretive. Now it's the society which is being censored.'

Meek has now posted a further item on ribanet, pleading that if there is an etiquette about such matters it should be posted. He is also angry that as a member of regional council he was never consulted on or informed of the Internet policy. 'We're still up in cyberspace but some get links and some don't,' he said. 'It's only when we query that we get told there's a policy.'

riba director-general Alex Reid was unavailable for comment but Valerie Owen insisted there was no 'skullduggery' afoot. However, she said that Meek's initial ribanet claims had been 'inappropriate, scrurrilous and libellous' and were cut 'to help Iain'. The City of London and Westminster Society has a link to the new London Region page but Owen said that Camden's had been deemed unsuitable because it was 'gossipy'. 'We didn't feel it was appropriate to link it until Iain has knocked it into shape.' However, she said, she would 'love it' if all six London branches could be linked to the main London region site if sites were 'professional and enthusiastic about architecture.'

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