Journalists barred from Tony Blair speech

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s aides ordered organisers of a Chinese conference he addressed to make things difficult for journalists trying to cover the event, it was reported today.

Journalists were barred from the hall in Beijing during his appearance. They were allowed to listen to Blair’s speech via a closed circuit television feed, but the transmission was cut after he moved into a 40-minute discussion and question and answer session.

No explanation was given, although organisers said privately that Blair’s press handlers had requested them to be “media unfriendly”.

During his term as prime minister, Blair was frequently criticised for attempting to manipulate media coverage.

In his brief address, Blair urged governments to embrace globalisation and band together to solve problems such as global warming and terrorism.

“We must win the hearts and minds,” he said on fighting terrorism.

“Change is the hardest thing to do,” he said in referring to the role of governments in preparing people for a more globalised economy.

Since retiring in May, Blair has held the sensitive role of special envoy representing the US, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia, helping the Palestinians lay the groundwork for a viable independent state alongside Israel.

His trip also comes just months ahead of an expected state visit to China by his successor, Gordon Brown.

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