Political reporters who cover government news at London’s No. 10 Downing St. boycotted an official briefing Monday after selected journalists were ordered to leave by an aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
A statement from the opposition Labour Party said the move by Johnson’s team demonstrated that the “prime minister was resorting to tactics imported from Donald Trump to hide from scrutiny.”
Asked why certain journalists were singled out to ban from the briefing, Johnson’s communication director, Lee Cain, responded: “We’re welcome to brief whoever we like, whenever we like,” reported HuffPost UK.
The briefing was supposed to address British trade negotiations with the European Union in the wake of Brexit. It wasn’t held because there was no one to cover it, according to The Guardian.
“Press freedom is a cornerstone of our democracy, and journalists must be able to hold the government to account,” said Labour’s shadow culture secretary Tracy Brabin (see the video above). “The future trade agreement with the European Union is an issue of great public importance and interest. Those gaining access to such important information should not be cherry-picked by No. 10.”
The U.S. State Department last week barred a National Public Radio reporter from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Britain, Ukraine, Belarus and Central Asia in apparent retaliation after Pompeo became angry when another NPR reporter asked questions about Ukraine.
Mary Louise Kelly, co-host of “All Things Considered,” said that Pompeo launched an expletive-laced tirade against her late last month after she asked him about Ukraine — even though she had cleared the subject with the State Department.
The State Department’s Correspondents Association issued a statement objecting to the removal of NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen from Pompeo’s trip as apparent punishment. But she remained off the roster.
Pompeo boasted about freedom of the press in America in an interview Sunday with a journalist in Kazakhstan. “As a journalist, I’m sure you know the good work the State Department does to train journalists in press freedoms,” he said.