Some 77 protestors have been charged with criminal offences following action by campaign group Extinction Rebellion which caused major disruption to national newspaper deliveries on Saturday morning.
Delivery of some 1.5m newspaper editions was disrupted by the actions at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire and Knowsley in Merseyside.
Newsprinters (part of News UK) condemned the protests as an “attack on all of the free press” which had affected workers going about their jobs, and others such as newsagents who face a “financial penalty”.
The company said it had transferred printing to other sites, but that delays were caused to some deliveries of The Sun, The Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times.
The action prompted condemnation from all political parties as an attack on freedom of expression and the free press.
The protestors said they wanted the issue of climate change to be front-page news every day.
Ironically, the issue of The Sun which was disrupted included an interview with Sir David Attenborough which highlighted the issue of climate change.
The article was headlined: “‘AT A CROSSROADS’ Sir David Attenborough says humanity is at a crossroads but we can still do lots to help tackle the climate crisis”
And it said: “The fewer demands we make on the planet’s resources, the better.
“We do that in terms of food, in terms of energy, in terms of being respectful to the environment. We can do lots of things.”
Hertfordshire Police has been criticised for taking 12 hours to clear the protest at Broxbourne. After arriving on the scene at 10pm on Saturday night, the final protestor was not removed until 10am on Saturday morning – long after that day’s newspapers should have been dispatched.
Writing in The Sun today Trevor Kavanagh said: “Police knew last year that the News UK plant in Broxbourne, which prints The Sun, The Times, Telegraph and Financial Times, was an Extinction Rebellion target.
“They knew on Friday 150 protesters were on the way.
“As the mob clambered up bamboo poles, half a dozen cops arrived to stand around ‘assessing’ the situation but doing sweet FA because the yobs were ‘at height’ and might suffer bruising.”
Hertfordshire Police said 51 people have now been charged with obstruction of the highway following an Extinction Rebellion (XR) protest outside Newsprinters Ltd print works at Broxbourne. The statement said two people have been remanded in custody to appear in court on Monday while 49 were released on conditional bail.
Twenty-six people have been charged with aggravated trespass following a protest at the News International premises in Knowsley, Merseyside Police said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “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.
“It is completely unacceptable to seek to limit the public’s access to news in this way.”
The Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN) said the protests had hit home delivery operations, including for the “elderly and vulnerable”, with its members having to deal with “angry customers”.