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04 February 2020
Journalists walk out of 10 Downing Street after Boris Johnson aide bans some publications from briefing

10 Dowing Street - Image credit: PA

Journalists walk out of 10 Downing Street after Boris Johnson aide bans some publications from briefing

Journalists staged a mass walkout from 10 Downing Street after Boris Johnson's chief spin doctor tried to ban some publications from attending a briefing on Brexit.

Lee Cain, the Prime Minister's director of communications, ordered political reporters who had not specifically been invited to leave the building.

In response, journalists from newspapers and broadcasters who had been invited, including the BBC, ITV, FT, Daily Mail, Telegraph and Guardian, also walked out in protest.

The incident came after a small number of hand-picked correspondents were sent a note inviting them to a “No10 technical background briefing on the UK’s future relationship with the EU”.

Political editors from most titles, including Holyrood’s sister website PoliticsHome, then turned up and, after going through the Downing Street security, were allowed through the black door.

Once inside, the journalists were asked to stand in the lobby and move to the other side of the room when their names were read out.

Those not chosen were then asked by a security officer to collect their mobile phones and leave the building.

When the reporters demanded to know who had taken the decision, Cain appeared and said: “Those who are invited to the briefing can stay, everyone else I’m afraid will have to leave.”

Asked to explain the decision to exclude some publications, he replied: “We're welcome to brief whoever we like.”

All of the journalists in attendance, including those chosen by Number 10 to receive the briefing, walked out of the building en masse.

A Number 10 source told Buzzfeed News: “Full briefing happened for all. Smaller selected briefing for specialist senior journalists (including Guardian) arranged.

“Uninvited journalists barged in and demanded to be part of it. It was made clear only those invited could stay. They chose to leave.”

But Tracy Brabin, Labour’s shadow digital, culture and media secretary, said: “Press freedom is a cornerstone of our democracy and journalists must be able to hold the government to account.

“It is concerning that Boris Johnson seems to be resorting to tactics imported from Donald Trump to hide from scrutiny.

“The future trade agreement with the European Union is an issue of great public importance and interest. Those gaining access to such important information should not be cherry picked by Number 10.”

Scottish and regional media were not even told about the briefing, according to Scotsman Westminster correspondant Paris Gourtsoyannis.

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