Six activists from the environmental movement, Extinction Rebellion, who blockaded the entrance to News Corp Printworks, were today convicted at St Albans’ Magistrates Court at a trial.
The trial is the first in a series of trials for 50 defendants who were arrested during an action on 5 September 2020.
During the action protestors used vans and bamboo scaffolds to block roads outside the Newsprinters works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. Another protest took place in Knowsley, Merseyside. The presses, owned by a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp UK, print titles including; Sun and Sun on Sunday, the Times and Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, and the London Evening Standard.
Holding banners reading ‘Free the Truth’ and ‘5 Crooks Control Our News’, the protestors aimed to highlight what they see as a failure of the media to report on the urgent climate and ecological emergency.
The activists were convicted of ‘obstruction of the highway’. They will be sentenced shortly.
Head of Criminal Defence at Hodge Jones & Allen, Raj Chada said: “The actions of Extinction Rebellion activists were expressions of a fundamental human right, the right to protest. For the defendants, the printed press is far from free, rather it is controlled by a few unelected and unaccountable billionaires. They allege the personal biases of media barons skew the press away from truthful reporting on pressing issues such as climate change and racism.
“Defending this right has never been so critical, as the government pushes through new legislation intent on expanding police powers. We will argue that the blockade was an exercise of the protestors’ right to free speech as they paradoxically sought to highlight the lack of freedom in the British press. The protest was more than an inconvenient disruption, it was a symbolic action. The right to protest and to have difficult conversations around free speech and the press is a cornerstone of liberal democracy.
“The minimal sentences in this case raise whether it is really in the public interest to continue these prosecutions. The state is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds rather than dealing with the core issue – the existential crisis caused by the climate crisis.”
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