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OPINION: Why our free press matters and always will

PUBLISHED: 14:12 07 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:44 07 September 2020

Police and fire services outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, as protesters use bamboo lock-ons continue to block the road. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday September 5, 2020. Extinction Rebellion continues with its plans to hold 10 days of demonstrations across central London as part of its ongoing campaign to highlight climate change. See PA story PROTEST Climate. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Police and fire services outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, as protesters use bamboo lock-ons continue to block the road. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday September 5, 2020. Extinction Rebellion continues with its plans to hold 10 days of demonstrations across central London as part of its ongoing campaign to highlight climate change. See PA story PROTEST Climate. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

I agree with Extinction Rebellion when it comes to one thing: Climate change is the biggest threat our planet faces.

Two protesters use bamboo lock-ons to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday September 5, 2020. Extinction Rebellion continues with its plans to hold 10 days of demonstrations across central London as part of its ongoing campaign to highlight climate change. See PA story PROTEST Climate. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA WireTwo protesters use bamboo lock-ons to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday September 5, 2020. Extinction Rebellion continues with its plans to hold 10 days of demonstrations across central London as part of its ongoing campaign to highlight climate change. See PA story PROTEST Climate. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

But I can’t agree that shutting down free speech in the form of this newspaper and its cohorts in any way advances the environmental cause.

I can clearly see why so many feel the time for debate has passed and we need urgent action. While I even side with the protesters when it comes to some of the changes we must make, our job as journalists is to paint the bigger picture.

MORE - Prof Rupert Read on why disruption from print works protests was a tiny price to pay for our future

Some say the Covid-19 crisis has shown how easily we could cut our carbon emissions by changing the way we live and work.

One protester is lead away by police outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, other protesters use bamboo lock-ons and a van to continue to block the road. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday September 5, 2020. Extinction Rebellion continues with its plans to hold 10 days of demonstrations across central London as part of its ongoing campaign to highlight climate change. See PA story PROTEST Climate. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA WireOne protester is lead away by police outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, other protesters use bamboo lock-ons and a van to continue to block the road. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday September 5, 2020. Extinction Rebellion continues with its plans to hold 10 days of demonstrations across central London as part of its ongoing campaign to highlight climate change. See PA story PROTEST Climate. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

But clear skies and empty roads have already led to the loss of countless jobs along with freedoms we took for granted before lockdown.

The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of factual, balanced reporting shining a beacon of truth through the fog of fake news. Would you rather the debate was lit by burning 5G masts torched by Covid conspiracy theorists?

That’s why this newspaper and its sister titles matter more than ever as the eyes, ears and voice of your community through the biggest crisis it has faced since the Second World War.

There could be worse around the corner as sea levels rise around low-lying East Anglia and future generations grapple with the consequences. In one form or another, future genertions of reporters will be there with them as they do.

A protest outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, organised by Scotland Against Lockdown, who oppose mandatory wearing of facemasks and lockdown Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA WireA protest outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, organised by Scotland Against Lockdown, who oppose mandatory wearing of facemasks and lockdown Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Those who blockaded our printing works claim the media does not tell you the full story when it comes to climate change.

The simple answer is we do not take sides. Where issues like climate change are concerned, we strive to offer the informed and balanced coverage that our readers expect, regardless of pressure from any point of the political compass.

We believe it is up to you to make your own mind up. We exist to inform, not to dictate.

This is why as journalists who serve your community, we will not be bullied or hi-jacked by one side or another of any debate.

We will instead deliver the same clear and impartial journalism as those who founded this newspaper more than a century ago, with its proud traditions nailed to our mast.

I won’t bore you with my personal politics. Suffice to say I rarely find myself in agreement with Boris Johnson these days.

But his reaction to the events of Friday night was spot on:

“A free press is vital in holding the government and other powerful institutions to account on issues critical for the future of our country, including the fight against climate change.”


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