Welcome To Zelo Street!

This is a blog of liberal stance and independent mind

Sunday 6 September 2020

Free Speech - Tories Speak With Forked Tongue

For those reading today’s edition of the Murdoch Sunday Times, and seeing the latest bout of indignant social media activity from supposed Home Secretary Priti Patel, the message is clear: the Tories are committed to upholding freedom of speech. Dig a little deeper, though, and it becomes clear that this commitment is a highly selective one.

MPs unite in defence of free speech” tells the ST, going on to reveal its main motivation for that headline: “Fury after blockade stops 1.5m newspapers”. Newspapers that were mainly Murdoch titles, like the Times and Sun. Meanwhile, the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph wanted readers to know that the Government was going to get tough on Extinction Rebellion, who had blockaded the printing plants.

Extinction Rebellion facing ‘organised crime’ curbs … Government crackdown on extremist group after ‘unacceptable’ attack on free press” thundered its headline, with over-promoted propagandist Camilla Tominey pitching in with the magnificently dishonest “They only want a press if it agrees with their agenda”. As if.

A free press would be an excellent thing. But we do not have one of those, as witness so much of our print media being owned by Rupert Murdoch, the Viscount Rothermere, and the Barclay Brothers. They overwhelmingly dictate the press’ agenda, what that press chooses to publish - and what it chooses not to publish.

The Tories know that; they also know that the right-wing press, through its selective reporting and agenda-driven narrative, is helping to prop up their Government. Worse, it does not take long for their supposed commitment to free speech to unravel, thanks to the Council of Europe calling them out for blacklisting investigative journalists.

As the Independent has told, “The UK government has been formally warned for threatening press freedom after it blacklisted a group of investigative journalists and denied them access to information. The Council of Europe issued the Level 2 ‘media freedom alert’ after Ministry of Defence press officers refused to deal with Declassified UK, a website focusing on foreign and defence policy stories”. There was more.

The intervention by the Council ironically comes as Boris Johnson and his ministers condemned environmental activists as a threat to press freedom for blockading printing plants in protest at newspapers' climate coverage … The new alert, issued by the organisation on Friday, was classified by the watchdog as an ‘act having a chilling effect on media freedom’ and put under the ‘state’ category - because the British state was the source of the threat”. And the result of this alert? Look away now, Tory fans.

The UK joins Russia, which had an alert issued this week after an blogger critical of the government was hospitalised by two unknown assailants, and Turkey, where a former TV presenter was arrested and charged with membership of a terrorist organisation”.

Hello Boris Johnson. Hello Priti Patel. No, I don’t want to look over there. Busted.

Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at



Anonymous said...

Stewart Lee is on fire today: "the Daily Telegraph, a part-work of Conservative press releases given away free with Buxton water at selected branches of WH Smith."

grim northerner said...

You can get arrested for saying that you can get arrested for being British nowadays!