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'We Need a Free Press But Do Not Have It': UK Climate Campaigners Defend Blockade of Murdoch's Destructive Media Empire

The real story, according to Extinction Rebellion UK, is that humanity is facing "an emergency of unprecedented scale and the papers we have targeted are not reflecting the scale and urgency of what is happening to our planet."

Amid banners that read, "5 Crooks Control Our News" and "Free the Truth," campaigners with Extinction Rebellion UK blocked delivery trucks belonging to Rupert Murdoch's News UK in the early morning of Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. (Photo: @XRebellionUK)

Amid banners that read, "5 Crooks Control Our News" and "Free the Truth," campaigners with Extinction Rebellion UK blocked delivery trucks belonging to Rupert Murdoch's News UK in the early morning of Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. (Photo: @XRebellionUK)

After staging overnight blockades of newspaper printing and delivery operations owned by right-wing magnate Rupert Murdoch and others for perpetuating the global climate crisis, members of Extinction Rebellion UK on Saturday defended the provocative direct actions by pointing out the life-threatening role these media giants play by willfully misinforming the public about the emergency now facing humanity.

"For one night ordinary people—terrified by the climate and ecological emergency that so much of our media is failing to report sufficiently—made these powerful and undemocratic corporations feel the vulnerability ordinary people live with everyday." —Extinction Rebellion UKAccording to the Guardian:

More than 100 protesters used vehicles and bamboo structures to block roads outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, in Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, near Liverpool, on Friday evening.

Hertfordshire police said delivery lorries had not left the Broxbourne site as of 6:00 am on Saturday, and that 42 arrests had been made.

The coordinated actions by Extinction Rebellion UK and local allies—part of a string of new climate demonstrations that kicked off at the beginning of the week—continue a global campaign that argues too few entities, including many existing members of the environmental and climate movement, show in deed that they understand the true peril presented by the rapidly-heating planet.

"We're not moving forward at the speed we need to turn the climate and ecological emergency around," Extinction Rebellion UK said in a Friday night statement explaining the nature of the blockades. "We're trapped somewhere between acceptance and the reality of just how bad the situation is. The right wing media is a barrier to the truth, failing to reflect the scale and urgency of the crisis and hold governments to account."

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While Secretary of State for the Home Department Priti Patel, a member of the ruling Tory government, accused the demonstrators of attacking "the free press, society, and democracy," members of Extinction Rebellion pushed back against that characterization as both "hyperbolic" and revealing.

"Let's not get distracted," the group said in a mid-day statement Saturday. "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°C] of warming."

"Priti Patel and her government are part of a political system that does not want and does not benefit from a free press," the statement continued. "Instead our leaders have allowed the majority of our media to be amassed in the hands of five people with powerful vested interests and deep connections to fossil fuel industries. Powerful vested interest has led to the appointment of Tony Abbott—a friend of Rupert Murdochs, a climate change denier, misogynist and homophobe—as a UK Trade Envoy. Our leaders are allowing these powerful few to deny the young the information they need to plan for their futures and defend themselves."

"We need a free press but we do not have it," said Extinction Rebellion UK. "They have failed us."

The group defended the overnight action for bringing the people of the U.K. at least "one day with far less misinformation, division and hate," and said: "For one night ordinary people—terrified by the climate and ecological emergency that so much of our media is failing to report sufficiently—made these powerful and undemocratic corporations feel the vulnerability ordinary people live with everyday."

A small group of people blockading the news trucks of billionaire media magnate Rupert Murdoch, the group argued, should not be the story.

The real story, according to XR, is that humanity is facing "an emergency of unprecedented scale and the papers we have targeted are not reflecting the scale and urgency of what is happening to our planet."

"Even as we in the UK are experiencing the impacts of our warming world, the Murdoch press remains silent. We—and the free press—have so much more work to do," the statement continued. "A free press does not push the agenda of its billionaire owners. Freedom of the press to these corporations means a completely unregulated fanfare with no threat of accountability for the harm and division they cause."

The group apologized to "any small businesses disrupted by the action," but added: "We hope that our actions seem commensurate with the severity of the crisis we face and that this day of disruption successfully raises the alarm about the greater disruption that is coming. There are five very wealthy people who own these newspapers and we encourage them to compensate you."

To Murdoch, however, the message was different and contained no apology. "We are not sorry for disrupting your business," the group said. "Stop suppressing the truth about the climate crisis and profiting from the division your papers create."

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