Extinction Rebellion protest: Boris Johnson condemns activists targeting newspapers as 'completely unacceptable'

More than 100 demonstrators used vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to block roads, with protests lasting until 11am.

Protests blocking deliveries of some of the UK's major newspapers have been condemned as "completely unacceptable" by the Prime Minister.

Some newsagents' shelves were left empty on Saturday morning after Extinction Rebellion (XR) protesters targeted Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, near Liverpool overnight.

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More than 100 demonstrators used vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to block roads, with protests lasting until 11am.

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Police said some 72 people had been arrested by Saturday morning.

Writing on Twitter, Boris Johnson said: "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."

Boris Johnson condemns Extinction Rebellion targeting newspapers as 'completely unacceptable'Boris Johnson condemns Extinction Rebellion targeting newspapers as 'completely unacceptable'
Boris Johnson condemns Extinction Rebellion targeting newspapers as 'completely unacceptable'

The Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN) said the protests had hit home delivery operations, including for the "elderly and vulnerable", with its members having to deal with "angry customers".

Newsprinters presses publish the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp's titles including The Sun, The Times, The Sun On Sunday and The Sunday Times, as well as The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday, and the London Evening Standard.

XR apologised to newsagents for the disruption but added it would not apologise to Mr Murdoch, calling on him to "stop suppressing the truth about the climate crisis and profiting from the division your papers create".

Responding to criticism from Home Secretary Priti Patel that its actions were an "attack on our free press", XR said: "Our free press, society and democracy is under attack - from a failing government that lies to us consistently, is becoming increasingly authoritarian, and is leading us towards 4 degrees of warming."

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Jo Stevens, Labour's shadow digital, culture, media and sports secretary, said: "A free press is vital for our democracy. People have the right to read the newspapers they want.

"Stopping them from being distributed and printers from doing their jobs is wrong."

But in a now-deleted tweet, Labour MP Dawn Butler appeared to praise XR, writing: "Bravo #ExtinctionRebellion. Excellent work..."

Newsprinters condemned the protests as an "attack on all of the free press" which had affected workers going about their jobs, and others such as newsagents who face a "financial penalty".

The company said it had transferred printing to other sites, but that delays would occur in some deliveries of The Sun, The Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times.

Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, said: "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."

Police said no arrests were made after XR protesters held a demonstration near Motherwell aimed at disrupting the distribution of Saturday's Scottish Sun newspaper.

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