Archant BNP ad 'marker of free speech'

Journalists and trade unions have condemned local newspaper publisher Archant’s decision to run adverts from the British National Party in 11 of its London papers.

The Hamstead & Highgate Express ran the ad last Thursday and caused uproar among local councillors – though editor Geoff Martin defended the move and said very few readers had complained.

He told Press Gazette: ‘A lot of people don’t think they are a legitimate party. but it’s not our job to decide.’He said that stories in the Evening Standard about London Mayor Ken Livingstone’s alleged maladministration had not stopped his paper taking his advertising. ‘So for us to make value judgements is very difficult. I’m quite happy to hear people’s personal views and express a wide range of opinions [in the paper],’he said.

Martin said that he did not support the BNP in an editorial in the Ham & High, but defended the ad as a marker of free speech.

Archant London managing director Enzo Testa said: ‘It is not our role in society to be censors, and we would vigorously defend the right to democracy and freedom of speech. As long as the adverts are legal and not offensive, any political party has as much right to put across their message as anyone else.”

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear and the NUJ chapel of Archant’s East London titles have written separate letters to Archant chief executive John Fry to protest against the advertisements.

Dear said: ‘No right-thinking individual or company could want to support or give a platform to a far-right party whose policies stir up intolerance, fear and hatred.”

Michael Parker, father of chapel at East London Newspapers, welcomed the decisions of the East London Advertiser and the Hackney Gazette not to run the ads.

Hackney TUC has called for a boycott of the company’s papers while Theo Blackwell, Labour councillor for Regents Park ward, has urged Camden Council to withdraw all advertising from the Ham & High.

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