The protesters targeted three printing centres owned by News UK to protest their claims over coverage of climate issues. Editions of several national daily newspapers were delayed by protesters’ blockades. Sixty-three people were later arrested.
Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors branded the actions as both foolish and anti-democratic and said they were an obvious deliberate attempt to harm the UK’s free press:
“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.”
“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.”
Stuart Reddish, national president of the Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN) 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.”