UK charges 26 over printing works climate protest

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London (AFP)

Twenty-six people have been charged with aggravated trespass after a climate protest at a printing works in northwest England disrupted the delivery of several newspapers, police said on Sunday.

Merseyside Police said the men and women, aged between 19 and 60, were released on bail and ordered to appear in court in Liverpool and St Helens between January 8 and 13 next year.

Fifty other people were in custody after a similar protest at another print site at Waltham Cross, north of London, Hertfordshire Police said.

The protests were part of 10 days of action by the group Extinction Rebellion and caused delays to deliveries of newspapers including The Times and its tabloid stablemate The Sun.

Activists blocked roads outside the sites using vehicles and attached themselves to obstacles to expose what they said was the "failure of these corporations to accurately report on the climate and ecological emergency".

The Times and The Sun are owned by News Corp, which is controlled by media magnate Rupert Murdoch, who has been accused of denying climate change.

Extinction Rebellion accused News Corp and right-wing publications such as the Daily Mail and the London Evening Standard of pushing "personal and political agendas".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is a former newspaper reporter and columnist, led condemnation of the action, calling it an attempt to stifle freedom of speech.

"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," he said.

Britain's domestic Press Association news agency quoted unnamed government sources as saying interior minister Priti Patel wanted to review how Extinction Rebellion was classified.

The review could see it treated as an organised crime group given the disruption caused by its activities.