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NUJ condemns axing of daily Downing Street coronavirus press briefings

THE government’s “extraordinary” decision to axe daily coronavirus Downing Street press briefings was criticised today by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) as “unworthy of a democracy.”

On Tuesday, Downing Street announced that that evening’s press briefing would be the last, except on days when there are “significant” announcements.

Hours before, PM Boris Johnson announced further easing of the lockdown from July 4 and the reduction of the two-metre social-distancing rule to “one metre plus.”

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet stressed that press conferences will become more crucial as the lockdown is relaxed.

She said:  “At a time when the government is easing the lockdown rules, with the messages becoming more nuanced and the practicalities more complicated, it is an extraordinary decision to end the daily press conferences.

“For the safety of the country, people need to know how the new rule changes will work and what impact these changes have on infection rates.

“We need to hear the reaction of the scientists to the difficult decisions politicians are making while attempting to open up the economy when the virus remains a deadly threat.

“It is also vital that the government remains under scrutiny. We have had the problems with lack of personal protective equipment, the fiasco of the tracking app, and the situation in care homes remains grave.

“Ministers need to be accountable and present to answer important questions at a time when public trust in the government is poor.”

The NUJ will be asking Downing Street to reach a compromise and instead have three set-timed conferences a week, and “not at the times and frequency of their choosing.”

Ms Stanistreet said: “Limiting scrutiny and controlling information during an ongoing health crisis is not a good look, and one unworthy of any democratic government.”

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