IT WAS an extraordinary sequence of events.

A woman filming a meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council is arrested, held in custody and released into the centre of a media storm.

It took minutes for the council to confront Llanwrda-based blogger Jacqui Thompson, declare her actions "against the rules" and call the police.

By the end of the day, the UK's media had descended on the story, opening a debate that reaches to the very heart of freedom of speech.

Fast-forward a few weeks and that debate rumbles on.

The council's actions have become fair game for comment.

Their reaction, and those of Dyfed Powys Police, has at best been described as 'heavy-handed', at worst, foolish. The footage has been seen by thousands courtesy of You Tube and the incident came weeks after the Government had recommended councils allow filming.

In addition, Jacqui was released without charge, filming being neither against the law or any council constitution.

It would be easy to assume the central figure in all this as something of an agitator - loud, aggressively forthright - not the quietly spoken, relatively shy person she actually is.

In fact, there is an air of bemusement around Jacqui as she discusses that day and it is clear she had no intention of becoming a poster girl for bloggers and so-called 'citizen journalists'.

However, neither is she a naive bystander.

She has previously been stopped from filming meetings and her blog site routinely 'exposes' what she sees as injustices of the council in attempt, she says, "to shine a spotlight on the closed doors of County Hall".

So while she may be bemused, she is certainly not apologetic.

"The reason I filmed that meeting, the reason for the blog, is that I believe that we need transparency and openness in our local authorities," says Jacqui, 49, who has four children with husband Kerry.

"Just what are these councillors so scared off they will see me arrested rather than their meeting being filmed?

"Real democracy means open government. But the way I see this council is a closed shop with a chilling silence in place of communication and open-ness."

It was following a lengthy planning battle on behalf of her brother in-law that Jacqui's interest in the Council was sparked.

Jacqui and Kerry were accused of libelling a council officer. He sued and the couple were forced to apologise and pay costs of £7,000.

"We fought, but libel action is costly and we had no money. We had to settle or weÕd have lost our home" says Jacqui.

"By now I had obviously had a lot of experience of the council and didn't like what I saw. I had talked to others and they all felt the same."

However, it was what happened next that prompted Jacqui to begin her Carmarthenshire Planning Problems blog when, she claims, the council changed its constitution to allow it to fund officers and councillors in libel cases.

"That would to allow them to use taxpayer's money to sue taxpayers, the only council in the UK to have done this. The implications of this are horrendous and I was appalled.

"If they decided to sue someone, they would have the full weight of public money behind them and who could fight that?," says Jacqui.

But the council says Jacqui is simply mistaken. Regulations allow them to fund councillors or officers in order to defend a libel claim, but not to bring one. (The council's lawyer, Lyn Thomas, added that it could not be ruled out that, in an exceptional case, the law could allow funding to bring a libel action, but he said that the council had never done it and did not expect to.) Whether her reason for starting the blog was right or wrong, she soon amassed a following of people who had their own stories and opinions and two years later, those same people are supporting Jacqui today.

"The support has been amazing," she says, "I could not believe the reaction to it all. People are looking harder now, questioning what happens here and perhaps at other councils. It is healthy.

"I mean something has to change doesn't it? That day I saw that an old woman had been denied a chance of expressing her opinion and thought "what kind of democracy is this?" I knew I had to film it, to show others.

"I knew I was doing nothing wrong and stood my ground. Next thing I know I am being arrested, handcuffed and four police officers taking me into custody.

"I cannot describe how scared I was. I was cold, confused and so worried; all I could think of was my family. I am now taking legal advice over the arrest. I was only freed when I signed an undertaking not to film any more meetings. I now believe that was done under duress."

Jacqui is certainly tough. The experience has not cowed her.

"Oh I'm staying firm on this," she says. "I am steadfastly resolved to continuing my fight. The whole experience has left me shaken but determined and even defiant.

"My next move is to stand for county councillor next May. I am already a community councillor and along with others have tried to make a difference there.

"I want to be a truly independent councillor, I want to march into County Hall, a voice of democracy, to challenge and modernise the way things are done. "Let's have real representation of our county in meetings, instead of this Old Boys Club of a majority of aged male councillors."

Jacqui has already been pledged the support of many and, of course, friends and families are right behind her.

"Everyone has been great," she says. "I've been overwhelmed by the support and concern,"

"You know friends and families have been surprised by me, I'm not forthright or fierce - actually I'm quite shy.

"But this is something I'm so passionate about and I canÕt stay silent about. It's time to have real dem'cracy."