Journalist protests force Reed to quit arms fairs

Pressure from journalists working inside Reed Elsevier helped force the company to ditch its involvement in arms fairs, as revealed on on Friday.

Reed Elsevier’s European Works Council, which represents the company’s 13,000 employees across Europe, has been pressurising the company to pull out of the business since 2005.

The European Works Council chair, and NUJ Father of Chapel at Reed Business Information Chapel Patric Cunnane, said that pressure from within the company had exacted the change.

‘It was employees coming to us, saying: ‘can you do something about this?’ And we like to think that it’s pressure inside the company – probably more than the pressure outside the company, that – that has caused this change.”

Reed Elsevier announced its decision after mounting opposition to its involvement in organising arms fairs while it is also involved in scientific and medical publishing.

Opposition from outside the company increased this year, when the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust sold its £2 million stake in the company and the British Medical Journal called on potential contributors to boycott Reed’s medical journal, The Lancet.

Welcoming the decision, BMJ editor-in-chief Fiona Godlee said she believed that asking authors to stop sending trial studies to Elsevier – which would have been particularly damaging to the company’s reprinting revenue stream – must have contributed to the decision.

‘There was a growing momentum, but I think in the end the threat to revenue must have been the thing,’she said.

Reed’s own medical journal, The Lancet, drew attention to the issue in September 2005.

In response to the boycott threat from the BMJ, The Lancet again urged Reed Elsevier to reconsider its position in its March editorial this year, hitting out at ‘the damage being done’to its reputation by the activity in the defence sector.

Last Friday, Reed Elsevier chief executive Sir Crispin Davis (pictured) acknowledged both the ‘very real concerns’of customers and authors, particularly in the science and medical sectors, to Reed Elsevier’s involvement in defence exhibitions and that the view was one ‘shared by a number of our employees”.

He announced that the company would continue to fulfil its 2007 contractual obligations before exiting the market, which accounted for around 0.5 per cent of total group revenue.

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