The editor of the Hamstead and Highgate Express has defended his paper’s decision to run an advert paid for by the far-right British National Party.
Geoff Martin, editor of the Archant-owned paper, known locally as the Ham and High, said it was not the company’s job to decide if the BNP was a legitimate political party and that ‘it should be far more worrying for journalists if all the parties weren’t treated the same”.
Martin told Press Gazette he had received 11 calls about the issue today – seven from journalists, three from councillors and only one from a reader, who said he ‘understood the paper’s position”.
‘I’m very aware that people are trying to make this a controversial issue but we still haven’t heard a lot from our readers,’he said.
Martin said he understood that staff would be upset at the ‘difficult decision’and said there was ‘more than one viewpoint’among the other Archant editors and managers who made the call.
‘A lot people don’t think they are a legitimate party but it’s not our job to decide,’he said. ‘I read in the Evening Standard every day that Ken Livingstone is corrupt – and we take Ken Livingstone’s advertising. So for us to make value judgements is very difficult.
‘I’m quite happy to hear people’s personal opinions and express a wide range of opinions [in the paper].”
Theo Blackwell, Labour councillor for Regent’s Park ward, is urging Camden Council to stop taking out adverts with the paper has said the decision to run the ad was indefensible.
Blackwell said: ‘This comes at a sensitive time – everyone knows that the BNP only need five per cent of the vote to get a seat on the London Assembly.
‘The editor seems to be really waving a flag over this. He seems to have done this very intentionally as a marker of freedom of speech. Anyone who knows basic civics would say this is more than just giving a platform to the BNP – it’s gone above and beyond that.
‘It contrasts with the historic values that the paper has and the diverse area it represents.”
A source at the newspaper told Press Gazette that there was widespread unease among staff and that journalists had expressed anger at advertising staff over the decision – though it was taken on a management level.
In unrelated news, the Ham and High is expected to announce the appointment of a deputy editor and news editor next week.