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Is the government avoiding the media and does it even matter? – BBC News

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The media and the government have always had a frosty – or far too cosy – relationship depending on who you want to believe.

However, have things taken a turn for the worst?

This week, there was a mass walkout by political journalists after senior reporters say they weren’t allowed into a meeting at Number 10.

This is denied by those working for the Prime Minister.

They argue this is the most open and transparent government in decades.

The government is being accused of avoiding tough questions and selecting who it gives background information to.

A minister told Parliament: “We reserve the right to brief journalists which we choose whenever we wish to, and that is not something abnormal.”

Is the government avoiding tough questions?

That’s what some critics think.

The government hasn’t been interviewed on some national BBC news programmes after major news events, like the recent terror attack in London.

It has always been normal for journalists to get invited in groups for background chats about stories by government departments – which are called briefings.

Journalists walked out of one at Downing Street this week after it’s claimed they were put on two sides of the room – with one group asked to leave.

Instead of letting this happen, all the reporters walked out in solidarity.

They have collectively decided not to give long interviews about what happened, but one has told Radio 1 Newsbeat that “our actions speak for themselves and it’s for the government to explain its actions”.

The Prime Minister’s team deny this is how it happened.

Newsbeat contacted Downing Street for a comment and was told to watch MPs sitting in the House of Commons when a minister would give the government’s version of events.

The Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith told MPs that no journalists are barred from official briefings hosted by the Prime Minister’s spokesman.

“It is entirely standard practice for the government to host additional technical specialist briefings, as was the case,” she said.

Is this really new?

Governments of all parties have always given information to parts of the media more likely to give them better coverage.

However, journalists who have reported on politics for years feel we have seen a big shift recently.

We’ve seen lots of stories of how Boris Johnson’s close team are preventing ministers from appearing on BBC 2’s Newsnight and the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Presenters on ITV’s Good Morning Britain also say they are being ignored and senior ministers have refused to appear on Channel 4 since before the election.

Some say this a deliberate tactic to avoid scrutiny, something President Trump is accused of in America.

Donald Trump gave Boris Johnson his backing as Prime Minister at the last election and some journalists, who were at the briefing, say that this event feels like something that could happen under the American leader.

Is the government just changing how it gets its message across?

There has been a big shift in how any government gets its message to voters and a lot of that is about politicians of all parties using social media to directly connect with its audience.

Labour had success with this at the 2017 election. A strong social media strategy is central to modern politics.

Boris Johnson faces questions once a week from MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions – or PMQs for short – in the House of Commons.

It’s an event loved by Westminster geeks but not that popular with the rest of the country.

Boris Johnson and his team have started an event to follow it called People’s PMQs where he answers questions sent in on Facebook.

The government say this is about answering questions that matter to voters, but critics say the questions are selected by his team and can be quite easy to answer.

Not just the government?

We mentioned that Labour under Jeremy Corbyn has been seen as good at using social media but it has also been criticised for how it deals with the big media organisations.

Some political observers say the party’s leader has been reluctant to appear on mainstream media outlets.

So when Labour’s spokesperson on the media, said the government was behaving like President Trump critics of Jeremy Corbyn were quick to highlight what they see as inconsistency.

We asked Labour for an official comment and so far they’ve not given us one.

Does any of this matter?

Some will say this is all a bit inward-looking and it’s just big, established media organisations getting angry and feeling left out.

There could be truth in that but others say this is a big issue because how the country works relies on the government being held to account and being scrutinised.

Currently the main opposition party Labour are in a weak position. They lost the recent election and are a long way from power.

Critics of the government will be hoping the media is able to do a lot of the questioning instead and anything that pushes the press out prevents this.

The Prime Minister’s team insist it is open to scrutiny.

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays – or listen back here.

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Iran elections: State media says voter turnout at lowest level since revolution – CTV News

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TEHRAN, IRAN —
Iran’s interior ministry said voter turnout in recent parliamentary elections stood at 42.57%, the first time it dipped below the 50% mark since the country’s 1979 revolution that ushered in a Shiite theocratic establishment to power.

The lower turnout is widely seen as a measure of how Iranians view the country’s government, with low turnout a signal of possible widespread dissatisfaction with Iran’s clerical rulers and the system they preside over.

Voters also had limited options on Friday’s ballot, as more than 7,000 potential candidates had been disqualified, most of them reformists and moderates. Among those disqualified were 90 sitting members of Iran’s 290-seat Parliament who had wanted to run for re-election.

Iranian hardliners also won all 30 parliamentary seats in the capital, Tehran, state TV reported on Sunday, but officials have yet to announce the voter turnout from the nationwide elections two days ago.

State TV also said that former Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, a top contender for the post of parliamentary speaker, was the top winner in the capital, with more that 1.2 million votes.

Iran’s supreme leader early Sunday accused enemy “propaganda” of trying to dissuade people from voting by amplifying the threat of the coronavirus.

A range of crises has beset Iran in the past year, including widespread anti-government protests in November and U.S. sanctions piling pressure on the plunging economy.

On the eve of the vote in Iran, the Trump administration sanctioned five election officials and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed the election as a “sham.”

In remarks from his office in Tehran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed the “negative propaganda” of Iran’s enemies for trying to discourage people from voting in Friday’s elections.

“Their media did not ignore the tiniest opportunity for discouraging people and resorting to the pretext of diseases and the virus,” he said.

Iran reported its first case of the virus two days before the national polls, and eight deaths have been reported due to the virus since then. That’s the highest death toll from the virus outside of China, where the outbreak first emerged a couple months ago.

Iran has confirmed 43 cases in total in at least five different cities, including the capital, Tehran, where some pharmacies have already run out of masks and hand sanitizer.

Schools were shut down in Tehran and across 10 provinces for at least two days, starting Sunday, to prevent the spread of the virus. Authorities have also suspended football matches and stopped shows in movie theatres and other venues.

Officials across Iran had encouraged people to vote in the days leading up to the election, even as concerns over the virus’ spread began to rise.

Iraq and Pakistan, which share borders with Iran, have taken preventive measures to limit the spread of the virus from Iranian travellers. Infected travellers from Iran already have been discovered in Lebanon and Canada.

Saudi Arabia ordered anyone travelling from Iran to wait at least 14 days before entering the kingdom as it seeks to prevent the spread of the virus to the Muslim pilgrimage sites of Mecca and Medina.

Meanwhile, the official IRNA news agency said ballot counting had come to an end on Sunday, with 201 out of 208 constituencies decided. The seven relatively smaller constituencies will be decided in a run-off election later in April.

Also on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif joked about shaking hands with his visiting Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg and told reporters: “We have to shake hands with them, don’t worry I don’t have coronavirus.”

In his meeting with the Austrian foreign minister, President Hassan Rouhani quipped that U.S. sanctions on Iran “are like the coronavirus” causing more fear than the reality, the official IRNA news agency reported. He urged Europe to resist U.S. pressure.

Schallenberg is in Tehran amid efforts by European countries to keep alive Iran’s nuclear agreement with world powers. Regional tensions have steadily risen since the U.S. withdrew from the landmark deal.

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China plans $14.2 bln maglev railway in Yunnan – state media – National Post

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SHANGHAI — China is planning to build a high speed magnetic levitation train in the country’s southwest Yunnan province, with an estimated total investment value of over 100 billion yuan ($14.23 billion), state media reported on Sunday.

The maglev railway will stretch 430 kilometers from Kunming to Lijiang, the Science and Technology Daily said, adding that the railway would grow the tourism industry and improve regional transportation. ($1 = 7.0255 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Lusha Zhang in Beijing and Emily Chow in Shanghai; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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Emergency goalie David Ayres becomes social media hero – Sportsnet.ca

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Saturday night’s clash between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes saw one of hockey’s rarest situations unfold at Scotiabank Arena.

After both of Carolina’s goalies left injured in the first period and a half, emergency netminder David Ayres — who serves as the Toronto Marlies’ zamboni driver — was forced into action. Seeing his first competitive minutes since 2015 when he was a member of the Allan Cup Hockey League’s Norwood Vipers, the 42-year-old surrendered two goals on his first two shots.

Ayres settled in from there and backstopped Carolina to a shocking 6-3 victory and earned first star honours for his effort.

As expected, social media erupted over the oddity. Here’s some of the best reaction.

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