Government documents unlawfully described Julia Hartley-Brewer as a ‘known vaccine sceptic’, officials have admitted.
The Cabinet Office was forced to apologise to the TalkTV presenter after it emerged one of her social media posts had been included in a report on ‘vaccine hesitancy’.
Ms Hartley-Brewer had commented ‘No. No. No. NO!!!’ on an article about the Health Secretary and Education Secretary’s joint letter to parents encouraging them to vaccinate their children.
Although she had publicly spoken about taking the vaccine herself, and regularly spoke of its benefits on her show, her name was included in a dossier compiled by Whitehall’s ‘Rapid Response Unit’ (RRU).
Last night Ms Hartley-Brewer said: ‘I am shocked that the British government spent time during a pandemic monitoring, attempting to censor and smearing a journalist who was simply trying to do her job by asking the right questions and challenging the prevailing orthodoxy.
Although she had publicly spoken about taking the vaccine herself, and regularly spoke of its benefits, Ms Hartley-Brewer name was included in the dossier
‘I was not a ‘known vaccine sceptic’, as my on-air and online comments clearly prove.
‘A government unit that was supposed to challenge foreign governments disseminating lies online was used against British journalists and MPs expressing reasonable concerns about Covid policies. And now we have proof that this same unit was actually responsible for lying about me.
‘I am particularly concerned by the fact that the British government shared this false information about me with a US government counter-terrorism unit set up to tackle Russian, Chinese and Iranian propaganda. This is very sinister.’
The Cabinet Office has admitted the report was shared with 64 British officials as well as counter-officials in the US.
Further transparency requests revealed Ms Hartley-Brewer’s opposition to vaccine passports had been logged and shared by government units.
In a written apology to the presenter, officials admitted the reference to her as a vaccine sceptic was ‘inaccurate and not impartial’.
The error was discovered by civil liberties group Big Brother Watch during a probe into the government’s counter-disinformation activities, particularly those of the controversial RRU.
The RRU was formed in 2020 to crack down on ‘false and misleading narratives’ around coronavirus and disbanded two years later.
The Cabinet Office has admitted the report was shared with 64 British officials as well as counter-officials in the US
The RRU was formed in 2020 to crack down on ‘false and misleading narratives’ around coronavirus and disbanded two years later
Director of Big Brother Watch, Silkie Carlo, said: ‘It is outrageous that UK government ‘counter disinformation’ staff monitored British journalists and spread harmful misinformation about them across the corridors of power, not only in the UK but even with counter-terror officials in the US.
‘It’s absurd that taxpayers are funding this multi-million pound counter-dissent project under the guise of ‘countering disinformation’, but also extremely chilling that so many journalists, politicians and ordinary citizens have been treated like the enemy within simply for criticising controversial government policies.
‘The government’s secretive Counter Disinformation Unit should be suspended immediately, and parliament should open an inquiry into its deeply disturbing activities.’
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘This matter is subject to ongoing legal correspondence and the Cabinet Office cannot comment any further at this time.’