Dear Daily Telegraph, here are the results of our free fact check of your recent article! - Extinction Rebellion UK

Dear Daily Telegraph, here are the results of our free fact check of your recent article!

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On Saturday the Telegraph published a piece by their associate editor Gordon Rayner about Extinction Rebellion’s upcoming Free the Press actions. The headline read: ‘For the silent majority, police failure to come down hard on Extinction Rebellion will be a surrender to mob rule’. The trouble is, despite conflated media spin and a number of falsehoods, the article seemed to make it past the Telegraph’s fact checking process. Don’t worry, we’ve done it for you! 

  1. The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘mob rule’ as “control of a political situation by those outside the conventional or lawful realm, typically involving violence and intimidation.”    Extinction Rebellion never uses violence and intimidation so you might want to scrap that one next time. 

  2. The article describes the actions planned next weekend as a “litmus test for officers who stood by whilst the free press was ‘cancelled’”
    Hertfordshire police did not stand by. In fact, the Assistant Chief Constable ordered the removal of protesters from in front of the Murdoch owned printworks in Broxbourne on the say-so of the Home Secretary before he had received any information from the officers at the site.

  3. The article frames next weekend’s actions as “a watershed moment in the culture war dividing society”
    …except the culture war only exists because of articles like this. Extinction Rebellion is interested in the media telling the truth about the climate and ecological emergency and facilitating a national conversation about how we meet the challenges it poses. It’s dialogue we’re after, not culture wars.

  4. “The battleground will be not only the streets of London, where activists will stage an “uprising” against the “mainstream media”,” 
    Battleground? More references to violence despite Extinction Rebellion being totally non-violent. Following the publication of Gordon’s article we had a call to our press phone insinuating a threat of violence at the weekend. We’re sure the Telegraph wouldn’t want to encourage violence against non-violent protesters.  
    “Uprising against the “mainstream media”’? Yup that sounds about right, though let’s not forget that we’re talking about the same newspapers that are owned by four billionaires who don’t pay their taxes and have off the record meetings with our MPs. [1] 

  5. Paragraph four of the article claims that police forces have “acted as spectators” and “allowed roads to be illegally shut”
    The problem with this is that the disruption of roads for the purpose of protest is not illegal per se. People have a legal right to protest and it is accepted by the courts that this will include disruption. The police’s job is to balance the rights of the protesters with those disrupted.
  1. In paragraph 10 Gordon asserts that “no one would deny the right to peacefully demonstrate with permission from the Local Authority – it is one of the cornerstones of democracy’ 
    Not quite! Actually, it’s a cornerstone of our democracy that we can assemble and freely express ourselves with or without permission from the Local Authority (see articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights) [2]
  1. Paragraph 11 claims that “For the silent majority of law abiding citizens who cherish free speech and democratic debate, any failure by the police to clamp down on illegal behaviour will be seen as a surrender to the mob-rule that has characterised so much of the recent culture wars” 
    The majority of the British public want the government to do more to address the threat of climate change. [3] The police have a duty to facilitate – not clamp down – on non-violent protest. Again, mob rule implies violence and intimidation and is not applicable to Extinction Rebellion. Again, culture wars, (more violent language) is a creation of the right wing media. This is not about culture, it’s about saving life. This is about everyone’s future, no matter what paper they read.
  1. Paragraph 12 quotes Kit Malthouse MP: “The right to protest is a fundamental principle of our democracy – but so too is the freedom of the press to publish without fear or favour.”
    This is probably a good place to point out that in September 2020, the Council of Europe issued the UK government media freedom alert. The alert was issued for threatening press freedom when the government blacklisted a group of investigative journalists and denied them access to information. Russia and Turkey were both issued with warnings in that same week. [4]
    The UK was also recently ranked one of the worst countries in western Europe for freedom of the press. [5]
    The recent Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report reveals that sections of the so-called free press are also implicated in corruption and murder. [6]
  1. More from Kit in paragraph 13: “We have been clear that we will not tolerate groups such as Extinction Rebellion using guerrilla tactics to shut down printing presses and deny the public access to information.” 
    Definitions of the term ‘guerilla tactics’ include the words, ‘military’, ‘paramilitary’, ‘hit and run’, ‘deception’ and ‘espionage’. The Telegraph might want to think again about using this one to describe non-violent protestors who are accountable and accept the legal consequences of their actions. 
  1. And more from Kit in paragraph 14: “The police have my full support in taking swift action to tackle illegal behaviour and to ensure the actions of one group does not cause misery and disruption to the silent law-abiding majority” 
    Again, it seems necessary to point out that UK courts accept that all effective protest includes a degree of disruption. In fact, the UK government, with the complicity of the British press, is in the process of causing untold misery and disruption to the British people – just last week the government’s own advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, said the UK government is failing to protect people from the fast-rising risks of the climate crisis, from deadly heatwaves to power blackouts. [7] 
  1. Paragraph 15 states that “Police Chiefs are under huge pressure from the Home Office”
    Well, they shouldn’t be. Police Chiefs should be independent of the Government in making operational decisions. 
  1. Paragraphs 16 to 19 include phrases such as “police will get robust”, “appetite for tolerance has come down”, “there will be direction to get in there early” and most importantly “Highway Obstruction is an offence so police have the right to arrest anyone as soon as they start to prevent traffic or pedestrians from using roads or pavements” 
    This is misleading. The police must show that the obstruction is both willful and without lawful excuse. It is also their job to balance this with the right to protest. DPP v Ziegler is due to be published by the Supreme Court imminently to clarify whether articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights can provide a lawful excuse to protesters with regards to the S137 Highways Act, 1980 (Willful Obstruction of the Highway). [8] If the court upholds the right to protest on the road, then the central argument of this article evaporates.

  2. In paragraphs 20 and 21 Assistant Chief Constable Chris Noble refers to assaults on police. This not relevant to Extinction Rebellion. In fact, at our biggest protest yet, in April 2019, police commented to us on the absence of injury to police officers, despite carrying out over 1000 arrests. [9] 

  3. Paragraph 31 claims that Extinction Rebellion believes that “newspapers such as the Telegraph should be cancelled for failing to follow a far-left agenda” 
    The Telegraph should report the truth about the climate and ecological emergency, as well about Extinction Rebellion. This article is a good example of the failure to do both. We need the press across the political spectrum to facilitate a public conversation about how we meet the challenge these crises pose to daily life. We’re not interested in cancelling anyone.
  1. Paragraph 56 claims that “the PCSC Bill … will give them [the government] greater powers to prevent unlawful protest” 
    Unlawful protest is already against the law and can be addressed by existing law. The PCSC Bill makes virtually all meaningful non-violent expressions of dissent unlawful. 
  1. Paragraph 66 states that: “For while Britain has a long tradition of campaigners breaking the law to advance noble causes such as the suffragettes, the likes of Emmiline Pankhurst wanted to expand freedoms not curb them” 
    Attempting to preserve the planet for humanity’s survival in the face of insufficient government action is not just a noble cause but everyone’s moral duty. 
    The Suffragettes were not non-violent and even turned to bomb making.
    The PCSC Bill is the government’s attempt to make peaceful protest illegal, a massive restriction of freedom. 
  1. Finally, the article carries an image of a burning police car which bears no relation to Extinction Rebellion and is therefore a defamatory misassociation. 

In addition to numerous inaccuracies, this article: 

1. Relies on two assumptions:
A) That it is unlawful to obstruct a highway for the purpose of protest. This is not the case.
B) That the Home Secretary can interfere in operational policing matters. Following the revelations that the Home Secretary interfered in policing operations on the night of Extinction Rebellion protests outside the Broxbourbe printworks, a challenge has been launched in the High Court to decide whether it is lawful for the government to apply pressure on police chiefs to influence operational decisions. 
2. Attempts to associate Extinction Rebellion with violent and intimidating protests using military language. 
3. Describes the expression of dissent as an attack on freedom and a proposed Bill that oppresses protest as a protection of freedom.
4. Paints Extinction Rebellion as being motivated by a far-left agenda rather than by the climate and ecological emergency.

Notes to editors 

[1] Four men own Britain’s news media. Is that a problem for democracy?

[2] The European Convention on Human Rights:

[3] YouGov poll finds majority of British public want the UK to lead world on tackling climate change:

[4] Council of Europe issues media freedom alert over UK government blacklisting of investigative journalists:

[5] Reporters Without Borders 2021 Media Freedom Index:

[6] Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report:

[7] UK failing to protect against climate dangers, advisers warn:

[8] Director of Public Prosecutions (Respondent) v Ziegler and others (Appellants):

[9] Extinction Rebellion arrests pass 1,000 on eighth day of protests:


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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