NUJ meeting on Charlie Hebdo and free speech red-carded by venue over security concerns

A meeting on free speech called by members of the National Union of Journalists had to be held in a pub after two venues refused to host it.

The monthly branch meeting of the NUJ London Magazine Branch attracted controversy over two motions which were circulated in advance which were critical of French magazine Charlie Hebdo one of which described it as “racist and islamophobic”.

The meeting was initially due to be held at the NUJ headquarters on Gray's Inn Road in London. But members say they were told to move it because of concerns about security and because a bigger hall might be needed due to the advance publicity.

According to a spokesperson for the NUJ, the branch was told to move the meeting becuase of logistical problems. They said they had one member of staff on duty last night, and two other meetings being held. They also said that others members of the Magazine Branch had expressed concern that the meeting was not constitutional because sufficient notice was not given.

The meeting instead moved to London Welsh Centre but last night the 30-or so people who turned up were told they couldn’t hold it there, because of security concerns prompted by the content of the debate.

In the end the meeting was held instead at a nearby pub.

The two motions which had attracted controversy were not debated, and instead it was decided to hold a general discussion on free speech.

The Guido Fawkes blog had reported the two motions under the headline: “Loony NUJ Magazine Branch Preparing to Slam Charlie Hebdo”.

One motion said: "The murderers of the 10 journalists must be condemned absolutely, and the killers brought to trial."

But it also said: "The role of much of the media in stoking Islamophobia. Sadly Charlie Hebdo has played a part in doing this in France."

A second motion condemned the NUJ leadership for a statement it issued about taking part in a Charlie Hebdo solidarity march in Paris.

The official NUJ statement said: "By joining this march the NUJ will be celebrating the work of the journalists at Charlie Hebdo.”

The proposed London Magazine Branch motion said: “We find the ‘celebration’ of this racist and islamophobic ‘satire’ distasteful at best, and dangerous and harmful at worst.”

London Magazine Branch membership officer Adam Di Chiara said: “The statement that was sent out was only a very rough draft and it should not have been circulated.

"We fully support people going on demonstrations to march in solidarity with the deceased. Our concern is that the phrase Je Suis Charlie has been picked up by the far right and politicians.

“It is one thing to say nobody should be killed and another thing to say we think your racist magazine is fab.

“I feel that nationally speaking people at the NUJ don’t want this thing debated and tried to stop it happening. And they did because we didn’t put the motions.”

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