'It's vital journalists do their job freely', says Sunak as probe launched into arrest of LBC's Charlotte Lynch

9 November 2022, 13:42 | Updated: 9 November 2022, 15:07

Rishi Sunak believes press should be able to report "freely" on the protests
Rishi Sunak believes press should be able to report "freely" on the protests. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Emma Soteriou

Rishi Sunak believes it is "vital" that journalists are able to do their job freely, Downing Street has said after LBC's Charlotte Lynch was arrested while covering an M25 eco-protest.

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The Prime Minister's official spokesman told reporters: "It's vital journalists are able to do their job freely without restriction.

"I am cautious about commenting on specific incidents. Operational decisions are a matter for the police but the Prime Minister strongly believes in championing press freedoms.

"We wouldn't want to see those freedoms impeded whilst journalists are going about their day-to-day business".

Charlotte was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance on the side of the M25 on Tuesday and held for five hours, despite the fact she had her press identification with her.

LBC Reporter recounts her arrest for doing her job at an eco-protest

Hertfordshire Police defended their actions, saying officers faced "very challenging circumstances" and they had "reasonable grounds at the time to make an arrest in order to ascertain the circumstances surrounding [the journalist's] presence at the location".

However, they later said ordered an independent investigation of their approach, saying they recognised "the concerns over the recent arrests of journalists" and added that "additional measures are now in place to ensure that legitimate media are able to do their job".

MP Daisy Cooper contacted Hertfordshire Constabulary over the incident
MP Daisy Cooper contacted Hertfordshire Constabulary over the incident. Picture: Daisy Cooper
MP Daisy Cooper contacted Hertfordshire Constabulary over the incident
MP Daisy Cooper contacted Hertfordshire Constabulary over the incident. Picture: Daisy Cooper

Charlotte, who has been a reporter for five years, was at junction 21 of the M25 in Hertfordshire.

"I'd been there for around 45 minutes before two male officers approached me and questioned what I was doing as I was taking pictures and videos of the protester," she told Nick Ferrari on Wednesday morning.

"I was on a road bridge over the motorway... well clear of the demonstration.

"I was not down on the motorway, I wasn't with the protester.

"I immediately showed these officers my press card and explained I worked for LBC... and I explained I was there reporting on the protest."

Charlotte Lynch tells James O'Brien she 'just lost it' while being under arrest

Charlotte's arrest has raised concerns over the free press after two other members of the media were also arrested.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan told Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: "Journalists shouldn't get arrested for doing their job."

She added: "We are defenders of free speech."

Meanwhile, Shami Chakrabarti, a Labour peer, activist and shadow Attorney General, said there are "balances to be struck" between the right to protest and public order, but "everybody has a right to fair reporting".

Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper has since sent a letter to Hertfordshire Constabulary, demanding an investigation into the arrests of journalists.

"It is clear that these arrests were unnecessary and heavy handed, and blatantly disregarded the freedom of the press," she said.

She went on to add: "Notwithstanding the abuse of police powers, this disgraceful treatment of journalists who are also trying to do their jobs is completely unacceptable.

"I urge you to conduct an urgent investigation into how these arrests were allowed to happen, immediately apologise to the journalists concerned, and direct your officers to protect the freedom of the press when executing their duties."

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