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‘Foolish’ and ‘anti-democratic’ - Leaders respond to Extinction Rebellion print blockade

PUBLISHED: 13:16 05 September 2020 | UPDATED: 13:16 05 September 2020

One of the protesters climbs down from the bamboo lock-ons they are using to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

One of the protesters climbs down from the bamboo lock-ons they are using to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

A blockade that has halted the printing of newspapers across the country has been called “antidemocratic” by leaders of the industry and the home secretary.

The final pieces of the bamboo lock-on structure used to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, are pulled down by emergency services. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday September 5, 2020. Extinction Rebellion continues with its plans to hold 10 days of demonstrations across central London as part of its ongoing campaign to highlight climate change. Picture: Yui Mok/PA WireThe final pieces of the bamboo lock-on structure used to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, are pulled down by emergency services. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday September 5, 2020. Extinction Rebellion continues with its plans to hold 10 days of demonstrations across central London as part of its ongoing campaign to highlight climate change. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Extinction Rebellion [XR] has held protest at three printing presses, including Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, overnight to stop a range of national newspapers reaching newsstands on Saturday.

XR say the protest was held because of the national titles‘ ”failure to report on the climate & ecological emergency”.

However, a number of local titles, including the Eastern Daily Press, Norwich Evening News and East Anglian Daily Times are printed at the same site and have been affected by the disruption.

The presses print the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp’s titles including The Sun, The Times, The Sun on Sunday and The Sunday Times, as well as The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, and the London Evening Standard.

Police and emergency services dismantle the bamboo lock-ons used to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. Picture: Yui Mok/PA WirePolice and emergency services dismantle the bamboo lock-ons used to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Reacting on Twitter, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “This morning people across the country will be prevented from reading their newspaper because of the actions of Extinction Rebellion.

“This attack on our free press, society and democracy is completely unacceptable.”

The Society of Editors and Federation of Independent Retailers have also criticised the actions, which has seen 63 people arrested.

Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors called the actions “foolish and anti-democratic”.

Emergency services dismantle the bamboo lock-ons used to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. Picture: Yui Mok/PA WireEmergency services dismantle the bamboo lock-ons used to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Mr Murray said: “The irony of protesters who wish to have their voices heard and their message listened to attempting to silence others by preventing the distribution of newspapers would be laughable if it was not so serious.

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“You have to wonder whether those planning and taking part in these foolish actions understand anything from history; that controlling or shutting down free speech and an independent media is the first action of totalitarian regimes and dictators.

“Everyone has the right to peacefully protest and make their voices heard, after all that is what a free press is all about. But it is not acceptable for those who wish only their voices to be heard to attempt to silence others.

“The UK’s media has provided an enormous amount of coverage on the issue of climate change, exploring the arguments from all angles. This attempt to blackmail the media into slavishly repeating the claims of one side of the debate while ignoring criticism of it will fail but displays a poor understanding of how the freedoms that allow organisations like Extinction Rebellion to protest are protected through the very free press they are attacking.”

Emergency services dismantle the bamboo lock-ons used to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. Picture: Yui Mok/PA WireEmergency services dismantle the bamboo lock-ons used to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Stuart Reddish of the NFRN said newsagents have played a critical role during the pandemic and the actions were not helpful at a time when “every sale counts”.

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Mr Reddish said: ”Our members up and down the country have been left without supplies of the Times, Sun, Daily Mail and Telegraph and are having to deal with angry customers who are unable to get their daily newspaper.

“This also impacts massively on our home news delivery operations. Many members have reported that their newspaper deliverers have been left hanging around as their deliveries have failed to arrive. It also means we are unable to get newspapers to our elderly and vulnerable customers.

“Newsagents have played a critical role during Covid-19 in getting newspapers into the hands of readers and this is not helpful at a time when every sale counts.”


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