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RSF Pushes Back on Government Press Restrictions

Source: RSF

Source: RSF

A nation's leader singling out journalists for exclusion from access and trying to de-fund public broadcasting? No, that's not a recap of the Trump White House's media policy. Instead, that was the subject of an alert from Reporters Without Borders (RSF) about Britain's Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. 

According to the journalism defense group, political reporters walked out of a Downing Street press conference in solidarity with their colleagues after Johnson's director of communications Lee Cain, tried to prevent some journalists from covering the invitation-only briefing to which they had apparently not been invited. 

Those journalists had already complained that the change of the daily briefing from Parliament to Downing Street could mean the Prime Minister would try to impose new restrictions on coverage. 

RSF also pointed out that Johnson was already under fire for his decision to issue his Brexit Day address direct-to-video, rather than allowing broadcast media to cover it themselves. Broadcasters then declined to air the pre-recorded speech, after which they were accused of bias

While it was recounting its concerns, Reporters without Borders also pointed out that the government had been considering decriminalizing nonpayment of the TV license fee--Brits pay a fee on sets--that provides the majority of funding to public service broadcaster BBC. 

"Restrictions on journalists’ access and threats against public service media are nothing short of alarming, and are disturbingly reminiscent of early Trump administration moves in the U.S. - practices that should be reversed, not replicated," said RSF UK bureau director Rebecca Vincent. "We call on the Prime Minister to ensure that such steps are immediately ceased, and that this government is acting in line with the country’s obligations to protect and respect press freedom."