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Jeremy Corbyn has explicitly threatened The Sun, The Mail, The Telegraph and The Express with ‘change’ in response to fevered press speculation surrounding his possible links with the Czech secret service.

Singling out his most strident critics in the right-wing press for unspecified future action Corbyn framed his position as a warning to the ‘billionaire tax exile’ owners of these titles, following days of increasingly lurid reports sourced from a former Czechoslovakian spy.

Corbyn concedes he held meetings with Czech agent Jan Sarkocy in the 1980s but insists he was under the impression that the man was a diplomat and not a spy and says claims he was a paid informant are "entirely false".

Dismissing the reports as "lies and smears", Corbyn is now going on the attack saying: “Publishing these ridiculous smears that have been refuted by Czech officials shows just how worried media bosses are about the prospect of a Labour government. They’re right to be.

“A free press is essential for democracy and we don’t want to close it down. At the moment much of our press isn’t very free at all. In fact, it’s controlled by billionaire tax exiles who are determined to dodge paying their fair share for our vital public services.

The General Election shows the media barons are losing their power and influence and social media means their bad old habits are becoming less and less relevant. But instead of learning these lessons they’re continuing to resort to lies and smears.”

Prime minister Theresa May has called on Corbyn to be "open and transparent" about his relationship, indicating he should grant the release of files held on him to the public.

The scandal began when The Sun unearthed archive files documenting at least three meetings between Corbyn and Sarkocy in 1986 and 1987.