After climate change activists blocked distribution of newspapers from News Corp print sites, the UK government is reported to be looking at legislation to outlaw actions against publishers.
The Society of Editors - which condemned Extinction Rebellion action which stopped distribution of 1.5 million newspapers last weekend - has reported that new powers which could include the protection of "critical national infrastructure and tenets of democracy" making it illegal to blockade newspaper printing sites as well as parliament and courts.
A rapid review of law options is understood to have been called for by prime minister Boris Johnson and home secretary Priti Patel. Options include
designating the climate change group as an organised crime gang , so as to provide for jail terms.
Writing in the Daily Mail - one of the affected papers printed at News Corp's Newsprinters sites - Patel said she would be looking at opportunities including primary legislation. "A free press is the cornerstone of British society," she said.
"The freedom to publish, without fear nor favour, and to inform debate on events that affect each and every one of us is absolutely vital."
The massive print sites including Broxbourne outside London, were built to print The Sun and The Times at high speed, but also produce contract work including the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Yorkshire Post and Eastern Daily Press on lines of triple-wide manroland presses.
Extinction Rebellion protested their coverage of climate change. SOE executive director Ian Murray has warned that legislation that could limit the right to protest and exert freedom of speech should be received with caution. "Protecting the ability of the media - in print, broadcast and digital - should be seen as vital for a democracy to survive," he said.
"The Society of Editors would stress, however, that in the rush to prevent actions similar to those taken by Extinction Rebellion protestors at the weekend, the government must be wary of going too far by taking measures that would stifle legitimate lawful protest. No new legislation should enable a government to silence anyone simply wishing to protest against the government itself or even the media."
Pictured: Newsprinters Broxbourne - visited by GXpress in 2009 - houses 12 triple-wide Colorman XXL presses
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