The British Government has been accused of violating media freedom during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Reporters Without Borders said the government was “vindictive” in their response to public interest reporting on stories related to the pandemic. It called out government officials for using the slur “campaigning newspapers” and restricting journalists from participating in government press conferences. This, they said is fuelling a growing climate of hostility and distrust in the British media.
Officials were also criticsed for using phrases like “false allegations”, “falsehoods and errors”, “inaccurate article”, and “don’t believe everything you read in the papers”.
In particular, the media came under attack after the broke stories reporting that Prime Minister Boris Johnsons senior advisor, Dominic Cummings had broken lockdown regulations. He was caught driving 260 miles from London to Durham with his family whilst his wife was suffering from COVID-19 symptoms. Cummings admitted that he had broken the restrictions.
Downing Street, however, issued a statement, calling the reports “false allegations.”
We are alarmed by the UK government’s dismissal of serious public interest reporting as ‘false’ and coming from ‘campaigning newspapers’. These Trumpian tactics are only serving to fuel hostility and public distrust in media. This worrying trend is certainly not in keeping with the government’s stated commitment to champion global media freedom – and must be immediately reversed before the UK’s press freedom climate is further eroded”, said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.