Michael Gove, when education secretary, told the Leveson Inquiry in 2012 he was ‘concerned’ about any proposal which might affect press freedom. Further media regulation, Gove said, would prevent ‘exercising of freedom of speech’.
But that appears to apply only to journalists supporting the Prime Minister. Yesterday, a journalist from the Mirror was prevented from climbing aboard the Tory battle bus.
The Mirror said it was the ‘first time ever’ that the paper had been banned from the Conservative Party’s campaign coach. It said Tory ‘senior aides’ blamed the Mirror’s criticism of Boris Johnson.
The Mirror reporter had been told she could join the bus but the offer was ‘pulled’ as she tried to board the vehicle. No other journalist was barred from travelling with Conservative campaigners.
The Voice of the Mirror said the Tories were ‘showing contempt not just for independent journalism but Mirror readers’.
Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of press freedom campaign group Index On Censorship, told the Mirror that ‘Freedom of expression involves supporting and defending the rights of others to say things we don't want to hear’.
That is what senior Tory Michael Gove told Leveson ‘freedom of speech doesn't mean anything unless some people are going to be offended some of the time.’
But this freedom, robustly defended by Gove, doesn’t appear to extend to journalists working for a paper critical of Boris Johnson.
Stopping the Mirror doing its job came just two days after Conservative Campaign HQ deliberately changed the name of its Twitter feed during the leaders’ debate to make it appear it was a fact checking site. This deliberate deception has been widely condemned.
The genuine fact checking site, Full Fact, said:
‘It is inappropriate and misleading for the Conservative press office to rename their twitter account ‘factcheckUK’ during this debate.’
In an ironic twist, the Tory battle bus broke down just hours after the Mirror journalist was refused permission to join fellow hacks. For 45 minutes, it went nowhere.
FOOTNOTE: There seems to be little coverage in other papers about the Tory attempt to muzzle the Mirror. Would the coverage have been so muted if it had been, say, a journalist from the Telegraph, Mail or Express who was refused entry to the Labour campaign coach? I suspect the deplorable action – and that’s what such behaviour is - would have been splashed over front pages in four-inch font. And rightly so.