Why did Ceredigion council waste public money by taking the time and trouble to submit baseless complaints about the Cambrian News to the Independent Press Standards Organisation?

The immediate answer is because no-one at the authority apparently understood the nature of press freedom. They thought they had the newspaper cornered with their daft allegations of bias, and it took the regulator to point out to them how wrong they were.

Press freedom in Britain was not won without much struggle and strife, and the council’s attempted assault on it, while ill-informed and so doomed to fail, nevertheless revealed an unhealthy hostility to freedom of expression.

At another level, this episode is a reminder of how councils can labour under a basic misunderstanding about their identity and role.

In a literal, but in no way demeaning, sense, they are public servants. Without local authorities, the organisation of society as we know it could not survive.

Things go wrong, however, when public servants - elected and unelected - start to regard themselves in an inappropriately exalted light. Voters may then be denied proper democratic control because councils have fallen into the trap of seeing themselves as quasi private businesses built on assumptions of powerful hierarchies dismissive of public involvement.

Press freedom can be all about countering such an undermining of democracy.