Journalists boycott meeting as Johnson’s team tries to stop critical reporters from attending

Boris Johnson
Support us and go ad-free

On 3 February, Boris Johnson’s team faced a high-profile media walkout after trying to limit who could attend a briefing about Brexit plans.

According to the Independent:

Journalists walked out of a Downing Street briefing on Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans after the prime minister’s director of communications tried to restrict it to selected publications and broadcasters.

It explained that:

when political correspondents from various outlets arrived inside Number 10, they were asked their names and told to stand in two groups on opposite sides of the entrance hall.

Director of communications Lee Cain then invited those on one side to enter and told those on the other to leave.

But in a rare act of solidarity, “all of the correspondents refused to take part in the event on those terms and left Number 10”.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Banning critical media

The Independent clarified that the “planned selective briefing” would likely “involve civil service experts”, and that “it has long been the convention that briefings from politically neutral civil servants are conducted on a strictly non-partisan basis, with publications of all shades of opinion represented to ensure that readers and viewers are kept informed”.

The Guardian‘s Rowena Mason highlighted that Johnson’s team had sought to ban “The Mirror, i, Huffington Post, PoliticsHome, Independent and others”. And she pointed out the extent of journalistic solidarity, saying:

Among those who refused the briefing and walked out included the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, ITV’s Robert Peston and political journalists from the Daily Mail, Telegraph, the Sun, Financial Times, and Guardian.

She also stressed that:

The tactics from No 10 mirror those of Donald Trump in the US who has been known to try to exclude journalists from reporting on his activities and represents an escalation of Johnson’s tensions with the media, which have been ramping up in recent weeks.

Trump has notoriously trolled critical media outlets and has openly shown his contempt for the journalistic profession. In 2017, he even called certain media outlets “the enemy of the people”.

Escalating tensions between Johnson and the media

Johnson’s relationship with the media is becoming frostier and frostier. As The Canary reported, Downing Street recently sought to:

freeze out the BBC and other national broadcasters from recording Boris Johnson’s ‘Brexit day’ message, in a move that critics say has “worrying overtones”.

This controversial move followed:

a government boycott of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and ITV’s Good Morning Britain, with no minister appearing on either since the election. This continues an apparent pattern of Johnson and his team avoiding public and media scrutiny, which began during the 2019 election campaign.

During the election campaign, Johnson did his best to avoid critical media attention. He chickened out of a Channel 4 climate debate, having previously sidestepped a debate with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on the same channel. And while Corbyn did an interview with the BBC‘s Andrew Neil, Johnson refused to do the same. The Tory leader also sought to ban critical journalists from his campaign bus.

The Trump-Johnson alliance

Donald Trump previously called Johnson the “Britain Trump”. And the Trump-Johnson alliance is only likely to strengthen post-Brexit. Trump has already spoken of the potential for a “massive” post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and US, for example. He says this could be “far bigger and more lucrative” than any deal with the EU. Speaking in south-east London on 3 February, meanwhile, Johnson said: “We will get going with our friends in America and I share the optimism of President Trump.” After leaving the EU on 31 January, the UK is now seeking international trade deals, including with the US, during the 11-month transition period.

Featured image via BBC News, with additional content via Press Association

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us