Sunday, 6 September 2020
Hypocritical hot air from censoring ministers
The Sunday press today is full of self-serving reportage of how environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion ( with whom I have my differences as they perversely suggest nuclear power can assist in combatting catastrophic climate change) blocked the printing presses for the News Corp papers ( The Sun and The Times) owned by owned by foreign billionaire Rupert Murdoch and some other government supporting papers (Daily Mail & Daily Telegraph). Home Secretry Priti ‘Permasmirk’ Patel weighed in condemning XR, was reported at being “furious” that free speech had been disrupted, and even hinted that XR could be prosecuted a under “subversion” legislation and Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to protect freedom of the press. All this Government hypocritical hot air was exposed by another news story that was only reported in an on-line news outlet, The Independent newspaper, that revealed in an incredibly important story that ministers have blacklisted an investigative news collective, called Declassified UK, that specializes in stories on abuses of power by the UK state. The irony is as rich you could get! Here is The Independent’s story Council of Europe issues media freedom alert over UK government blacklisting of investigative journalists https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/press-freedom-uk-government-council-europe-alert-boris-johnson-priti-patel-a9706741.html Independent, 6 September 2020 The UK government has been formally warned for threatening press freedom after it blacklisted a group of investigative journalists and denied them access to information. The Council of Europe issued the Level 2 "media freedom alert" after Ministry of Defence press officers refused to deal with Declassified UK, a website focusing on foreign and defence policy stories. The intervention by the Council ironically comes as Boris Johnson and his ministers condemned environmental activists as a threat to press freedom for blockading printing plants in protest at newspapers' climate coverage. Britain has been a founding member of the Council of Europe since it was set up in 1949 under the Treaty of London. It monitors human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe and is responsible for overseeing the European Convention of Human Rights. The organisation's media freedom alert system catalogues threats to media freedom such as attacks on the physical safety of journalists, harassment and intimidation, detention and imprisonment. The new alert, issued by the organisation on Friday, was classified by the watchdog as an "act having a chilling effect on media freedom" and put under the "state" category – because the British state was the source of the threat. The UK joins Russia, which had an alert issued this week after an blogger critical of the government was hospitalised by two unknown assailants, and Turkey, where a former TV presenter was arrested and charged with membership of a terrorist organisation. The International Press Institute (IPI) wrote to the Ministry of Defence on Friday urging the government to rethink its crackdown said the move appeared to be taken because of the outlet's critical editor line. "IPI is concerned this sudden decision to exclude Declassified UK from a MoD comment, and the subsequent lack of communication on the matter, appears to have been taken in retaliation for its previous critical reporting and editorial stance on the UK armed forces," IPI’s Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. "It goes without saying that the exclusion of a media publication by a government ministry due to its investigative reporting would undermine press freedom and set a worrying precedent for other journalists whose job it is to report in the public interest on the British military. Criticism should be no reason to discriminate against a media publication. "In contrast, tough journalism by outlets such as Declassified UK on matters such as the UK’s foreign and military affairs, uncomfortable though it often may be for those in power, is crucial for a transparent and functioning democracy." The Council of Europe's media freedom alert says the journalist at Declassified UK was denied a response to a question about the war in Yemen after being asked “What sort of angle have you taken on the war in Yemen?” and then later told by a press officer at the department that “we no longer deal with your publication”. The last time the UK was issued with a state-focused media freedom alert was in May this year, when an OpenDemocracy journalists was banned from asking questions as the UK government's daily coronavirus press conference.