The Freedom of the Press was compromised last week when a group of journalists from news outlets such as The Daily Mirror, HuffPost, The Independent and the i newspaper were excluded from a Downing Street briefing.
Despite the government insisting it is “committed to being open” with the press amid a row over the official system for briefing journalists, they failed to invite key reporters from the UK’s national left-wing media outlets.
Fellow comrades took the move to boycott the briefing after discovering that other journalists – who hadn’t been invited – were turned away.
The refusal of access to information to the left-wing press reflects the governments ‘“sinister” (SNP) strategy to avoid left and centrist media scrutiny.
Shadow culture secretary Tracy Brabin suggested it was “not an isolated incident” and there was indeed a trend for the government to decide who had access to information.
The decision to run-away from the left also falls in line with the idea that the right-wing press has grown to dominate the UK media landscape.
In a 2017 poll, YouGov asked the public “How left or right-wing are the UK’s newspapers?”. The graph demonstrates a clear dominance from the right and just before Christmas the Murdoch Empire acquired ownership of the i newspaper.Mathew Smith, data journalist at the Times commented, “The results show that collective circulation of right-wing papers is leaving that of the left-wing papers for dust (Smith, Mathew, 2017).”
So, do you know what you’re reading? This incident raises several questions regarding ideological influence and the potentiality of the public being ‘brainwashed’ by the right.
We all have tailored media preferences on our electronic devices, and you may not realise but what you read is channelling certain political attitudes. Importantly, the government’s actions completely disregarded the Freedom of the Press Act, an inherent part of our democracy.
Attitudes like this correspond with the likes of Orwell’s 1984.
Can you imagine a censored UK media landscape? Checks and balances from the press are necessary – who knows what ministers get up to behind closed doors?
However, the government continued to defend their decision. Chloe Smith, cabinet office minister said there was nothing unusual about this and the government will always support a free and open press.
“No journalists are barred from official media briefings hosted by the prime minister’s official spokesman. It is entirely standard practice for the government to host additional specialist or technical briefings as was the case yesterday.”
Conservative MP Damian Green said while “better arrangements” were needed for such lobby briefings he detected “the faint air of fake outrage”, while his colleague Sir Peter Bottomley said under the last Labour government certain editors had been banned from briefings.
The government must be held accountable for the media must not be stripped of their right to scrutinise the ruling political party.