More than 100 protesters targeted Newsprinters’ presses in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, Knowsley, Merseyside, and Motherwell, North Lanarkshire overnight in a bid to cause disruption, gluing themselves down and using bamboo structures to block the sites.
The presses print the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp’s titles including The Sun and The Times, while The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the London Evening Standard are also printed from the locations.
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Newsagents say that some papers have not arrived after hours of disruption to the delivery network, while others are expected to arrive late.
‘An attack on the free press’
The Times newspaper was among those to apologise after the disruption hit deliveries, assuring readers: “We are working to get newspapers delivered to retailers as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, The Sun noted its disrupted Saturday paper contains a comment piece from Sir David Attenborough on the climate crisis, “which Extinction Rebellion protesters tried to prevent from reaching our readers with their attack on free speech.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted on Saturday afternoon: “A free press is vital in holding the government and other powerful institutions to account on issues critical for the future of our country, including the fight against climate change.
“It is completely unacceptable to seek to limit the public’s access to news in this way.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel also condemned the “completely unacceptable” protests as an “attack on our free press, society and democracy”.
Labour’s shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry told Times Radio: “This is very worrying… I know that for many older listeners it’s very much part of their daily life, getting their paper delivered in the morning, and I just think it’s wrong.”
However, Labour MP Dawn Butler, who previously served in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, appeared to praise the action. In a since-deleted tweet, she wrote: “Bravo #ExtinctionRebellion. Excellent work…”
Hertfordshire Police say that thirteen people have been arrested in connection with the protests.
XR has accused the newspapers of failing to report on the climate crisis and criticised the monopoly on national media by “five billionaires”.
In a post shared on social media, Extinction Rebellion wrote: “WE WANT TO LIVE – it’s all we’re asking. Coverage in many of these newspapers is polluting national debate on climate change, immigration policy, the rights and treatment of minority groups, and dozens of other issues. We can’t move forward till this barrier falls #FreeTheTruth.”
Climate emergency ‘existential threat to humanity’
Extinction Rebellion activist Gully Bujak, 27, said: “You cannot have a functioning democracy with a mainstream media that is ruled by a small, unrepresentative sect of society, who are in bed with politicians and the fossil fuel industry.
“The climate emergency is an existential threat to humanity. Instead of publishing this on the front page every day as it deserves, much of our media ignores the issue and some actively sow seeds of climate denial.”
In response, a spokesperson for the printworks described the incident as “an attack on the free press”.
The spokesperson said: “Overnight printing at two Newsprinters plants was disrupted by activity by Extinction Rebellion. Thanks to other industry partners, printing was 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.
“Our teams are working to get newspapers delivered to retailers as soon as possible this morning.
”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.“
‘Mass rebellions’ planned
XR has planned 10 days of action amidst calls for the Government to declare a climate emergency.
The incident follows protests in central London on Thursday, where more than 300 people were arrested.
The group is also focusing its campaigning on UK airports and calling on the aviation industry not to return to “business as usual” after the coronavirus pandemic.
The Metropolitan Police has issued a letter to the pressure group reminding it that organisers of any group gathering of more than 30 people is liable for fines of £10,000.