XR was protesting how 68% of the UK's print media is owned by 4 billionaires
The climate action group Extinction Rebellion has dumped seven tons of horse manure outside the Daily Mail Group offices in London.
The campaign group turned up outside Northcliffe House in Kensington on Sunday (27 June) to kick off a day of protesting with the aim of sending a message to the four billionaire owners of 68% of the UK’s print media.
Members of Extinction Rebellion also visited the building which houses the Telegraph on Sunday morning but were stopped by police before they could dump a further seven tons.
The protesters were asking Rupert Murdoch, Lord Rothermere, Sir Frederik Barclay and Baron Evegeny Lebedev to “cut the bull****” and demanding an end to media corruption.
Signs such as “cut the crap” and “free the press” were left at the manure sight. XR protesters then started marching in Central London alongside anti-racist groups and organisations campaigning for media reform, including Black Lives Matter and the Media Reform Coalition.
Prior to the action on Friday, police had conducted a raid on the Extinction Rebellion Art Factory, a space where the group makes art for XR actions and which also supports BLM, nurses groups and other protesters with banner-making facilities. Four women making banners were arrested.
Police also raided the Antepavillion art space in Haggerston, which was exhibiting the bamboo structures used in XR’s blockade of the Broxbourne printworks last year. Three more arrests were made, despite these people having nothing to do with Extinction Rebellion.
Nine months ago on 5 Sepetember 2020, XR blocked the entrance to the printworks, in Waltham Cross, and disrupted newspaper distribution for the whole day.
Gully Bujak from Extinction Rebellion, said: “For the British public, who’ve seen the criminal behaviour of this government and their ‘cronies’ throughout the pandemic, the conclusion must surely be clear: the arenas of power in this country are rotten, and where the billionaire-owned press is concerned – corruption is the business model.
“It’s time they cut the crap and stop acting as though they are providing a noble service to the public, while greenwashing the climate crisis and stoking the culture war to divide people.
“The need for a truly free press in Britain has never been more evident or urgent than it is today. Until the press is free, and those in power truly accountable, we cannot consider ourselves to live in a democracy, and without a functioning democracy, we cannot hope to survive the multiple and devastating crises heading our way.”
Voices such as the Prime Minister and Home Secretary slammed XR’s action at the Broxbourne printworks, saying that a “free press is vital” for the future of the country “including the fight against climate change”.
Yet a YouGov poll commissioned by XR found that only a minority of adults in the UK believe we have a free press. The majority think that the small concentration of press ownership is unacceptable.
On the same day as the action, the Council of Europe issued the UK government media freedom alert for threatening press freedom when the government blacklisted a group of investigative journalists and denied them access to information.
Corruption and delayed action go hand in hand when it comes to the climate crisis. From the point Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in July 2019 to September 2020, three of these billionaire press owners and their reps have had more meetings with ministers than the rest of the UK media combined.
A spokesperson at Media Reform Coalition, said: “The Media Reform Coalition Report ‘Who Owns the UK Media?’ demonstrates the endemic problem of concentrated ownership across the UK media landscape. Concentrated ownership creates conditions in which wealthy individuals and organisations can amass vast political and economic power and distort the media landscape to suit their interests.
“Urgent action is needed both to remedy these high levels of concentration and to protect against further losses of media plurality and diversity. The coronavirus pandemic has made it clearer than ever how much we need accountable media institutions, run in the public interest, which help a divided society talk to each other and hold the powerful to account.
“Media institutions that act in the public interest, rather than the interests of politicians and governments, billionaire owners or powerful corporations. Without a media freed from corporate and government interests, democracy flounders and fails.”
Just last week the government’s own advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, said the UK government is failing to protect people from the fast-rising risks of the climate crisis, from deadly heatwaves to power blackouts.
This week it was revealed that IPCC scientists are preparing a landmark report warning of a series of thresholds beyond which recovery from climate breakdown may become impossible.
An XR spokesperson said: “When corruption rules, the media is used as a mouthpiece for political influence.
“Instead of outright denial, many of these papers have shifted their perspective into downplaying the severity of the risks we face and demonising those who speak out about it.
By the end of Sunday, 23 people had been arrested.
The Metropolitan Police said: “Today’s demonstrations have now concluded. A small group remain in the area of Westminster and police remain with them.
“A total of 23 people were arrested as a result of the proactive operation by police.”
Demonstrators were arrested, among other things, on suspicion of an offence under Section 148 of the Highways Act and others on suspicion of causing criminal damage.
Lucy Skoulding is a journalist and Human Rights student. Follow her on Twitter.
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