Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson, Alistair Carmichael MP, has today slammed the government for “double standards” over its stance on the freedom of the press. Speaking in a debate in Parliament following the blockading of a newspaper printer by climate change protesters at the weekend, Mr Carmichael highlighted recent government efforts to shut out “enemy” media outlets from briefings and threatening the BBC’s independence.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“Can I welcome in the warmest possible terms the very robust defence of the freedom of the press that we heard. As he says the freedom of the press to scrutinise our institutions is indispensable.
“With that in mind and perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, would he agree that it was somewhat ill-advised for the government in February of this year to exclude a number of media outlets including the Mirror, the Independent and the Huffington Post from Government briefings. Could he tell us if we would expect to see him accepting an invitation to appear on GMB any time soon?
Responding for the government, Kit Malthouse MP said:
“I know my place, and I will be deployed at the behest of my superiors on screen and press and radio, wherever is required. I hope that over a long career in politics I have never shied away from a challenge. My view is that if you’re not willing to go out and defend a policy then why are you putting it in place in the first place?”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“The government should not claim to stand up for the press after barring journalists from briefings and undermining the independence of the BBC in recent weeks and months. The government’s position cannot simply be to defend the press only when it is convenient for its “culture war” distractions. A free press does not operate on a double standard, picking winners and losers on a partisan basis.”