Reed Elsevier to pull out of arms fairs

Reed Elsevier is to pull out of the defence exhibitions industry after mounting opposition to it having interests in both arms fairs and scientific and medical publishing.

The publisher announced today that it willwithdraw from the arms fair industry by the end of 2007, after it had fulfilled its current contractual obligations.

In an email to staff, Reed Elsevier CEO Sir Crispin Davis 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”.

The opposition against Reed’s involvement in fairs such as Defence Systems and Equipment international in East London has been building for some time.

The editor of its own medical journal, The Lancet, Richard Horton, has been outspoken about his publisher’s other activities, calling for an end to them as early as September 2005.

In early 2007, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust sold its stake in Reed Elsevier for £2 million, in objection to its involvement in the defence industry.

In its March edition, the British Medical Journal, the publishing division of the British Medical Association, used its editorial to advocate a boycott of The Lancet by contributors in protest of its publisher’s links.

In response,The Lancet hit out at “the damage being done” to its reputation from its publisher’s involvement in arms fairs.

The title reiterated its opposition to the defence-related fairs and called on Reed Elsevier to stop what it saw as a damaging link to the arms industry.

The Defence exhibitions business accounts for around 0.5 per cent of total group revenue but in his email to staff, Davis said the decision was not an easy one to take.

He said of the business: ‘It is an important industry in ensuring countries have effective defence capability, as enshrined in the UN Charter. Our people in Reed Exhibitions have worked very hard to make these businesses successful and run them to the highest standards, for which I would like to thank them.”

But he added: ‘Nevertheless, we believe the growing and genuine concerns of increasing numbers of our customers must be paramount.’

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