Papers faces backlash over BNP election ads

By Dana Gloger, April 18, 2008

One of the country’s biggest media groups has caused outrage by printing British National Party advertisements in its London newspapers.

Archant London published the adverts, which urge people to vote for the BNP in the May 1 elections, in all its newspapers in the capital.

One of these is the Ham & High, which covers several North London areas with large Jewish populations, including Hampstead and Golders Green.

Editor Geoff Martin defended the move on the grounds of “freedom of speech and expression”, but it caused an outcry from Camden councillors. Keith Moffitt, the LibDem leader, said: “It came as a shock that local newspapers which I thought I knew well, and certainly the Ham & High, which has a liberal tradition, have done this.

“The paper has a massive Jewish readership. I think it’s so insensitive.”

Tory member Andrew Marshall said: “The Ham & High has a large Jewish and Muslim readership and is supposed to be a beacon for liberal London. Even if you’re a commercial organisation, you surely must have some standards.”

Labour’s Theo Blackwell said: “This shameless pursuit of profit over principle is disgraceful.”

Mr Martin said that he had received around 12 readers’ letters about the advert, around half of which had been in favour of it being printed. He added: “If this had been at any other time, we might have taken a different view. But we agreed to take political adverts from all parties in the run-up to the elections, and had already published some from other parties, so we couldn’t single out one party in an act of censorship. Sometimes there’s a price to pay for a free and inclusive democracy.” This week Archant said all revenues from the BNP adverts would go to charity.

Jews for Justice for Palestinians has taken a full-page advert, with many celebrity endorsements, in this week’s JC to ask whether Jews can enjoy their Seder while Palestinians are suffering “slavery”.

JC editor David Rowan said: “Although I understand that many readers will object to the sentiments in this advert, it has not been this newspaper’s policy to censor lawful advertisements from Jewish organisations — even where they conflict with the newspaper’s editorial position.”

Last updated: 5:41pm, May 13 2008