British newspapers distribution hit by climate change activists blockade

British newspapers distribution hit by climate change activists blockade

Extinction Rebellion climate activists protest in London
Extinction Rebellion activists participate in a "peaceful disruption" of the British parliament as lawmakers return from summer recess, in London, Britain September 2, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON: The distribution of several British newspapers was disrupted on Saturday (Sep 5) after Extinction Rebellion climate change activists blockaded printing presses used by Rupert Murdoch's News UK, the publisher of The Times and The Sun.

The group said late on Friday that nearly 80 people had blocked roads leading to two printworks, at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, north east of London, and at Knowsley, near Liverpool.

Extinction Rebellion said it was aiming to disrupt newspapers that are part of News Corp, controlled by Rupert Murdoch's family, as well as right-wing titles The Daily Mail and The London Evening Standard.

"The groups are using disruption and their consistent manipulation of the truth to suit their own personal and political agendas," it added in a statement.

Hertfordshire police said they had made 42 arrests, while Merseyside police said they had made 21.

The Murdoch-owned Newsprinters works also print the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times.

Extinction Rebellion said it took the action to highlight what it regards as the newspapers' failure to accurately report on climate change.

"COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE"

The protests, which continued through to Saturday, were condemned by interior minister Priti Patel.

"This morning people across the country will be prevented from reading their newspaper because of the actions of Extinction Rebellion," she said on Twitter.

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

Extinction Rebellion climate activists protest in London
Extinction Rebellion activists participate in a "peaceful disruption" of the British parliament as lawmakers return from summer recess, in London, Britain September 2, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

A Newsprinters spokeswoman said the disruption meant printing had to be transferred to other sites.

"We apologise sincerely to any readers of The Sun, The Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times who may be unable to buy their usual newspaper this morning due to late deliveries," she said.

"This attack on all of the free press impacted many workers going about their jobs. Overnight print workers, delivery drivers, wholesale workers and retail newsagents have faced delays and financial penalty. This is a matter for the police and the Home Office."

The main opposition Labour Party's international trade spokesperson Emily Thornberry called the disruption "wrong", noting elderly people could miss out on newspaper deliveries.

Even Prime Minister Boris Johnson's fiance Carrie Symonds, a former head of communications for the ruling Conservative party before becoming an environmental campaigner, waded into the controversy.

"I care about climate change and biodiversity a massive amount but preventing a free press to spread this message further is just wrong," she tweeted.

"Not to mention all those small businesses that rely on being able to sell newspapers."

"DEAR MR MURDOCH"

Extinction Rebellion said on Twitter it was sorry for disruption caused to small stores selling newspapers but was unrepentant about its targeting of the media conglomerates.

"Dear Mr. Murdoch, we are absolutely not sorry for continuing to disrupt your agenda this morning," it added.

The blockade is part of a week of protests by Extinction Rebellion, including on Wednesday in Parliament Square where demonstrators lay under white sheets to represent corpses.

The group says an emergency response and mass move away from polluting industries and behaviours is needed to avert a looming climate cataclysm.

It said it plans further protests in central London on Saturday.

The group, which formed in Britain in 2018 before becoming a global protest movement, kicked off 10 days of renewed demonstrations across the country on Tuesday.

Police have been taking a tougher approach towards the group during this round of protests, imposing restrictions at sites and making hundreds of arrests.

Last year, more than 1,700 people were arrested during its 10-day "Autumn Uprising", which saw major disruption across the UK and large parts of central London blocked off.

Source: Reuters/AFP/aa

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