51 Extinction Rebellion members in court for Murdoch Printworks action - Extinction Rebellion UK

51 Extinction Rebellion members in court for Murdoch Printworks action

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  • Plea hearings begin for 51 members of Extinction Rebellion who blockaded Rupert Murdoch’s printworks.
  • The first 24 defendants to appear at St Albans Magistrates Court today, with most expected to plead not guilty.
  • Disruptive printworks action highlighted the failure of our corporate press to tell the truth about the climate and ecological emergency, its divisive tactics and the vested interests controlling our news.  

Monday 5th October 2020: Plea hearings have begun today for 51 members of Extinction Rebellion who blockaded Murdoch’s Hertfordshire printworks last month, disrupting the distribution of newspapers including the Sun, the Times, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

Twenty four people will appear at St Albans Magistrates Court today, with a further twenty six due to attend on Tuesday and Thursday. All defendants are charged with obstruction of the highway and most are expected to plead not guilty. 

Defendants include several teachers, a grandparent, a former city broker, an electrician, an engineer and an ex journalist.

Charges relate to the night of Friday 4th September, when the group of Extinction Rebellion members blocked the roads leading to the Broxbourne printworks near Waltham Cross with vehicles, reinforced metal lock-ons and two bamboo tensegrity towers. [1] Protesters displayed banners that read ‘Five Crooks Control our News’ and ‘Free the Truth’. 

The blockade continued until 11am the following day, when those activists who the police had still failed to remove, came down from the trucks and bamboo scaffolds and were arrested. The action succeeded in preventing copies of newspapers, including the Sun, the Times, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, from reaching the newsstands. 

Extinction Rebellion took the disruptive action to expose the failure of these publications to accurately report on the climate and ecological emergency, their divisive tactics, the consistent manipulation of the truth by their corporate owners to suit their own personal and political agendas, and the lack of public trust in our so-called “free press”. [2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]

A simultaneous blockade took place at Murdoch’s Knowsley printworks outside Liverpool. Plea hearings for 30 activists charged for the Knowsley action will begin on October 9th. 


Extinction Rebellion activist and defendant Gully Bujack, 27, said:  “A free press is vital to the functioning of a democracy, and we do not have a free press in this country. Five  billionaires control the news that roughly 70% of the British population read. These individuals – the elite 1% – decide what to print based on their own personal and political agendas. They consistently fail to accurately and adequately report on the climate and ecological emergency, they actively spread lies and misinformation in order to sow fear and hatred of marginalised groups, and they manipulate national conversations on crucial issues to serve their own aims. 

“The press regulator IPSO is wildly insufficient when it comes to holding these institutions to account. And no wonder, when the corruption of these publications spreads to the regulator itself: in August IPSO hired an ex Daily Mail editor as their CEO. Clearly the burden is on us, the public, to demand a true and meaningful free press, that serves real people, not billionaires.”

Sue Hampton, 64, retired teacher and author, co-ordinator for Extinction Rebellion Dacorum and a member of Christian Climate Action from Berkhamsted, said:  “This action was always about freeing the truth – which itself, of course, is said to set us free. The UK press, acknowledged internationally to be very far from free, has failed to tell the truth about the climate and ecological emergency. It has stirred up hostility against some of our fellow-humans, including those who are suffering climate breakdown ahead of us. 

“Every day I remember that I serve peace, love, truth and justice – climate, racial and social justice. That’s why, as a Quaker, grandma and Rebel, I had to take part in this powerful symbolic action standing for the only values that really matter.” 

Craig Scudder, 54, a former City broker who now builds eco-houses, from Harpenden said: “It’s no longer possible to be a climate change denier and retain any credibility, so the game plan has evolved. Much like a small child trying to delay the inevitable bedtime, today’s climate change denier is trying to slow walk the journey. 

“It’s the approach used by the newspapers we targeted and it goes like this: Lie that our government is the world leader in combating climate change; falsely claim that no more can be done without “taking us back to the dark ages”; portray those who care about this as being out of touch middle class swampies and the privileged elite who’d rather protest than work for a living. 

“I have a family to support and a business to run. I don’t want to spend my spare time protesting. All I ask is that those with power and a voice use it to tell the truth and unite us to make real change.”

Caspar Hughes, 49, a parent and the former owner of a sports events company, now a full time climate campaigner from Exeter, said: “Having grown up in a world where our government is chosen by the corporate media, I’ve always been worried about their effect on the general public’s perception of the climate and ecological emergency (CEE). It’s clear that their reporting of the CEE, in reality their continued obscuring and lack of reporting, has led to a void in understanding how terrifyingly serious the situation has become. There is a gulf between what the scientists are telling us and what the public understands. This gulf exists because the corporate press allows it to exist.

“The corporate press is the single most powerful pillar in communicating the depth of this crisis at a national and global level. Its recognition and communication of this crisis will be the first step to our society being able to to accept the depth of change required to stop the risk of cultural collapse. Without this recognition governments and corporations around the world will not be able to effect the changes required for our children to continue their existence on an habitable planet. 

“Over the past few years, Extinction Rebellion has organised a number of protests outside the head-quarters of the Daily Mail and Murdoch’s News Corp. Their reporting has not however improved inline with public awareness of the CEE. The action blocking the Murdoch printing press was necessary – it has changed the national conversation about the power held by the press.”

Elise Yarde, 32, an educator from London said: “I took part in the Broxbourne action not just to raise awareness about how the newspapers underplay the climate and ecological emergency, but also to highlight how newspapers undermine our democracy. Five white male tax-dodging billionaires control over 70 per cent of the news media. 

These men know the extent of the Climate and Ecological Emergency, but instead of publishing the truth, their papers print lies that breed hatred, racism and fear. What’s more, our government has become dependent on these papers to stay in power. This is sadly unknown by the majority who rely on these newspapers for their information. Our voices are not being heard so we have been forced to take drastic action.”

Defendants will be available for interview on request. Contact Zoe on 07918 165 046.

For photographs of the action visit https://show.pics.io/xr-global-media-breaking-news-content/search?tagId=5f532e124a85742e236b6586


[1] Extinction Rebellion‘s bamboo protest towers that blocked national newspaper printing presses recall the sustainable motives of high-tech architecture and should win the Stirling Prize, argues Phineas Harper in Dezeen.

Press failure to report the scale and urgency of the Emergency

[2] We are in an emergency of unprecedented scale and the papers we targeted are not reflecting the scale and urgency of what is happening to our planet, even as we in the UK are experiencing the impacts of our warming world. For example, in the weeks leading up to our action, while the NFU warned that due to the extreme weather, a result of climate change, the wheat harvest would be down by 30%, the Sun failed to report it. As EDF admitted that construction of the new Sizewell nuclear power plant would emit 5.7 million tonnes of C02, the Sun took a pop at vegans. And as Storm Francis caused widespread damage, the Sun failed to make the link to climate change. 

[3] While much of the right wing press has moved away from outright climate denial, it continues to ridicule environmentalists and those sounding the alarm, while sowing doubt about the severity of the situation and opposing measures that would mitigate climate change. 

[4] The Sun, along with the rest of the right wing press, continues to lobby for the expansion of the aviation industry and other polluting activities. Outside the UK, Murdoch’s flagship paper, The Australian, has been widely condemned for running upbeat stories about picnics while bushfires, caused by global heating, ravaged the country.

Concentrated press ownership and vested interests

[5] Five billionaires (Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay Brothers, Lord Rothermere and Alexander Lebedev) are the majority voting shareholders for most of the UK national newspapers, with a combined weekly readership of 49million. Three companies alone (News UK, DMG and Reach) dominate 83% of the national newspaper market (up from 71% in 2015).

[6]This small group of extremely powerful people manipulate the media narrative to serve their own ends. As author, George Monbiot has said: “All billionaires want the same thing – a world that works for them. So how, in nominal democracies, do they get it? They fund political parties and lobby groups, set up astroturf (fake grassroots) campaigns and finance social media ads. But above all, they buy newspapers and television stations. 

“The widespread hope and expectation, a few years ago, was that news controlled by billionaires would be replaced by news controlled by the people: social media would break their grip. But social media is instead dominated by stories the billionaire press generates. As their crucial role in promoting Nigel Farage, Brexit and Boris Johnson suggests, the newspapers are as powerful as ever. They use this power not only to promote the billionaires’ favoured people and ideas, but also to shut down change before it happens.”: 

[7] Rupert Murdoch, who is known to intervene personally in the editorial output of his titles, is a famous climate denier, who sits on the board of an oil and gas company. He has been criticised by his own son for his businesses “ongoing denial” of the climate crisis.

Do we really have a “free press”?  

[8] The UK is 35th in the world in the Freedom of the Press Index

[9] On 6th September, the UK government was formally warned by the Council of Europe for threatening press freedom after it blacklisted a group of investigative journalists and denied them access to information.

[10] In a survey by the European Broadcast Union on public trust in the media, the UK came bottom of the table with only 7% saying they had a high level of trust, 33% saying they had a medium level of trust, and 60% saying they had low or no trust in the media.

[11] According to a YouGov Poll made up of more 1600 people and commissioned by Extinction Rebellion:

  • Only a minority of adults in the UK think that we have a free press. 
  • When given information on the ownership of our press, half of adults in the UK think we don’t have a free press, without this information a third of adults in the UK actively say we do not have a free press.
  • Most people think the press ownership concentration is unacceptable.
  • In addition, 48% of people think the UK press generally pays too little attention to climate change.

The unchecked power of the corporate press

[12] BBC documentary The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty charts Rupert Murdoch’s influence on our politics. With a media empire that spans three continents, he has used his vast political power to undermine our democratic system: his media outlets have backed every winning prime ministerial candidate since Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979. 

Dirty tactics

[13] Following our action, the hostile press has made personal attacks on our furniture, fabricated stories about divisions within the movement, attempted to paint Extinction Rebellion as ISIS supporters and fascists, tried to get our funders to disown us and other activists to denounce us, dropped scheduled stories about us, and even made a bizarre attempt to blame us for a 95 year-old granny falling over in search of her absent morning paper. We will be publishing our attempts to seek corrections or retractions where publications have breached the IPSO code. 

A suggestion for editors

[14] If you want to start digging into the truth about the Emergency, rather than the provenance of our bookshelves, you could begin by asking what living in a 4 degree world would look like. You could also scrutinise the government’s efforts to meet the recommendations of its own Climate Change Committee. And you could sign up to Covering Climate Now, which provides resources for journalists reporting on the Emergency. Extinction Rebellion has access to brilliant scientists if you need a comment. For a thorough briefing on the science, please see the newly published Emergency On Planet Earth, written by Dr Emily Grossman with the support of the XR Scientists community and fact-checked and reviewed by a wide range of experts

Whistle-blow for the Planet

[15] If you have insider information about any aspect of the climate and ecological crisis, including evidence of how those with vested interests are downplaying the scale of the emergency, visit Extinction Rebellion-supported whistleblowing website www.TruthTeller.Life. However large or small the revelation, TruthTeller.Life can help you tell the world what you know. 


Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and increasingly rapid climate change. If urgent and radical action isn’t taken, we’re heading towards 4˚C warming, and the societal collapse and mass loss of life that that implies. The younger generation, racially marginalised communities and the Global South are on the front-line. No-one will escape the devastating impacts.

Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.

Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:

  1. Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  2. Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  3. Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

What Emergency? | Extinction Rebellion in Numbers |This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook 

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About Rising Up!

Extinction Rebellion emerged from the Rising Up! network, which promotes a fundamental change of our political and economic system to one which maximises well-being and minimises harm. Change needs to be nurtured in a culture of reverence, gratitude and inclusion while the tools of civil disobedience and direct action are used to express our collective power.

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