Johnson and BBC Trade Jabs, as War on the Press Flares


If so, however, it is a hit-or-miss strategy. Mr. Johnson has sat for interviews with other BBC journalists, including Andrew Marr, host of a Sunday morning program. At a news conference on Monday, he did call on the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, though, unusually, only after calling on half a dozen of her competitors.

Mr. Johnson’s relations with the non-broadcast media have soured quickly, too. Monday’s walkout came after the second time in two weeks that officials handpicked reporters for a briefing.

Tensions had already flared after the government abruptly changed the location of regular briefings for British political journalists — from Parliament to a building adjacent to 10 Downing Street. Some journalists said the new location would make it harder for smaller news organizations, with fewer staff members, to attend.

The bigger fear among journalists is that Mr. Johnson’s influential adviser, Dominic Cummings, wants to shelve a system of organized briefings that take place twice a day while Parliament is in session.

This, the critics contend, is part of a longer-term ambition to bypass the mainstream media, disseminate information directly through social media and cut journalists down to size by making them seem ill-informed and irrelevant.

On Tuesday, lawmakers held a lively debate on press relations, with Pete Wishart, a member of Parliament for the opposition Scottish National Party, calling it a “black day for press freedom.” Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi of the Labour Party argued that “that the Prime Minister and his advisers are merely trying to copy President Trump’s tactics and trying to stifle our free press.”

Last month, the editors of every national newspaper signed a letter protesting the changes. After the walkout, even some Conservative-leaning news outlets that are friendly to Mr. Johnson, like the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, pushed back — their dedication to a free press evidently outweighing even their enthusiasm for Brexit.

Source : Nytimes