By a Democrat reporter
The Society of Editors has condemned actions taken by Extinction Rebellion protesters which resulted in the delivery of several national UK newspapers being delayed this morning.
The protesters targeted three printing centres owned by News Corp 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,” commented Murray.
“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.”
West Dunbartonshire Council leader Jonathan McColl has refused to comment to The Democrat on an ongoing basis since we told a press officer,who was being assisted by at least four senior Council officials to throw us out of a public meeting in the Burgh Hall, quietly to “bugger off”.
Our offence was to ask the Provost to turn up the sound so that we could hear what was going on in the public meetings and a press bench from which we could see the participants in the meeting in order to identify them in our reports.
Since then the Council have to to recognise have refused to accept that our reporter is a bona fide journalist or to accord us the usual privileges of including us in their mailing list for press releases and inviting us to events and meeting.
Perhaps they should take a long, hard look at themselves. They should accept that their actions are anti-democratic. Seeking to control or shut down free speech and an independent media is the first action of totalitarian regimes and dictators.
Democrat editor Bill Heaney said: “The public most be wondering how long they are going to have to put up with Cllr McColl and his cronies. They are an affront to the many well-intentioned folk in the Scottish National Party. He makes Donald Trump and Boris Johnston look good.”