Distribution of several British newspapers was disrupted after climate change activists blockaded printworks used by Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, publisher of The Times and The Sun, drawing condemnation from United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Extinction Rebellion said nearly 80 people blocked roads leading to two printworks, at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, northeast of London, and at Knowsley, near Liverpool on Saturday.
Hertfordshire police said they made 42 arrests and Merseyside police made 30.
The Murdoch-owned Newsprinters also prints the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, and the Financial Times.
Campaigners said they had taken the action to highlight what they regard as the newspapers’ failure to accurately report on climate change, as well as “their consistent manipulation of the truth to suit their own personal and political agendas”.
But the move was condemned by Johnson. “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,” he said on Twitter.
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 (@BorisJohnson) September 5, 2020
A Newsprinters spokeswoman said the disruption meant printing had to be transferred to other sites.
“We apologise sincerely to any readers of The Sun, The Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times who may be unable to buy their usual newspaper this morning due to late deliveries,” she said.
“This attack on all of the free press impacted many workers going about their jobs … This is a matter for the Police and the Home Office.”
The Sun pointed out that Saturday’s edition carried a piece from veteran naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough.
Extinction Rebellion said on Twitter it was sorry for disruption caused to newspaper retailers but was unrepentant about its targeting of the media outlets.
“Dear Mr Murdoch, we are absolutely not sorry for continuing to disrupt your agenda this morning,” it added.
Dear Newsagents, we are sorry for disruption caused to your business this morning. Dear Mr. Murdoch, we are absolutely not sorry for continuing to disrupt your agenda this morning. @rupertmurdoch #FreeTheTruth #ExtinctionRebellion #TellTheTruth pic.twitter.com/KU8msACDCv
— Extinction Rebellion UK 🌍 (@XRebellionUK) September 5, 2020
The group, which formed in the UK in 2018 before becoming a global protest movement, said an emergency response and mass move away from polluting industries and behaviours is needed to avert a looming climate cataclysm.
It kicked off 10 days of renewed demonstrations across the country on Tuesday.
On Saturday, it also protested in central London, including holding a “die-in” in front of Buckingham Palace, where demonstrators lay underneath white sheets to represent corpses.