Reporters were booed at Labour’s manifesto launch today, forcing party leader Jeremy Corbyn to ask his audience to “have respect” for members of the press asking questions.
Corbyn was taking questions about the party’s election manifesto as he officially launched the 126-page document, which includes policies on the media, a week after it was leaked to the press.
Asking a question about immigration, Channel 5 News political editor Andy Bell was met with boos before Corbyn intervened from the podium.
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He told the crowd: “No, please. Let’s have respect for everyone who wants to ask a question including members of the media. By the way, I’m a member of the NUJ [National Union of Journalists].”
Daily Mirror reporter Jack Blanchard was also booed when he told Corbyn his policies had proven popular with Mirror readers in an opinion poll, but added: “What they didn’t like was you as leader. Why do you think that is?”
Placating the crowd once again, Corbyn said: “It’s alright. It isn’t the cult of personality. Don’t worry about it.”
Blanchard was only one of two print media reporters permitted to ask a question of the Labour leader. The other was the Morning Star’s Peter Lazenby.
He asked: “Can anything be done about the about the shockingly biased media?”
In an answer that saw him defend press freedoms as “intrinsic to democracy and a free society”, Corbyn said: “Thanks very much for your question.
“You have noticed that some of the media are slightly biased against the Labour party. This is sometimes said to be the case.
“We are very serious about ensuring there is freedom of information and a right to know in society. It was after all Labour who introduced the Freedom of Information Act.
“We also recognise that in many societies around the world very brave journalists have lost their lives or are assassinated because they have uncovered the truth about brutal regimes and abuses of human rights.
“Journalists and journalism and free journalism and free press are intrinsic to a democracy and a free society. I fully understand that.
“But it’s also important to ensure there is responsible journalism. That there’s a multiplicity of ownership that there is a right of reply and there isn’t an abuse of monopoly power within it.
“And so we will develop Leveson and Tom Watson is very clear on this, that we will protect the diversity of our free press and we will ensure there is diversity of all of our media outlets in this country so that everybody can take an informed opinion.”
The BBC, ITV and Sky News were also permitted to put a question to Corbyn.
Picture: Reuters/Darren Staples