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EDL warned not to harass journalists

17 March 2010

The NUJ demanded that journalists be allowed to do their work without harassment at Saturday's demonstration in Bolton by the right-wing English Defence League (EDL).

The call comes following attacks on working journalists on the website of the Casuals United group, which supports the EDL. The website warns photographers:

"Whinging left wing idiots – you wanna film the protests for hostile purposes, you accept the anger you clowns."

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said:

"The atmosphere of menace that some of these groups seek to generate may be disproportionate to their size and level of public support, but their activities can still constitute a serious threat to working journalists seeking to report on their activities.
"Attempts to prevent journalists working constitute a serious attack on a free press and on individual liberty which must not be tolerated."

The offensive website has reproduced, without permission, photographs and copy written by NUJ member Marc Vallée – who was attacked by the leader of the EDL youth division last December – accompanied by threatening remarks.

The NUJ has produced guidelines to help journalists who are covering the activities of far-right groups like the EDL and the BNP.

Counter-demonstrations against the controversial EDL were planned at Bolton Town Hall in Victoria Square.

Jeremy Dear has written to London's Newham and Ilford Recorder and the Archant Group to say their newspaper and online publications should not accept advertising from the BNP.

He writes:

"The BNP argues that you have a democratic obligation to accept their ads. This is untrue. The Electoral Commission makes clear that the principle of editorial control remains paramount with regard to political advertising – even if an advertisement complies with the law, any newspaper must always be able to make an independent decision whether to publish or distribute the material offered, the Commission says.
"In any case, no newspaper or website should take money from an organisation that advocates policies that would directly discriminate against the communities served by that publication.
"Moreover, the BNP seeks to intimidate the media into publishing its propaganda and ceasing investigations into the party. Many journalists who have reported the party have found themselves on far-right hate websites. The assault last month by BNP stewards on Dominic Kennedy of The Times illustrates the party's hostility to serious, investigative media.
"We understand the financial pressures you are under to accept advertising. But your publications have far more to lose in the longer term through conferring on the BNP the badge of respectability by publishing their ads. Indeed, you would hand your competitors a PR gift by opting to take BNP advertising.
"You have no obligation to give the BNP a platform in this way. While taking political ads from other parties, it is fine to make an exception for the BNP. This is not a respectable or legitimate political party – it is an organisation that aims to disenfranchise a significant section of British society, and it encourages violence to achieve those ends.
"No media outlet should associate itself with the recent rampages of BNP supporters through multicultural neighbourhoods across the country. Key members of the BNP have convictions for race-related behaviour and criminal violence, and a history of promotion of neo-Nazi concepts such as holocaust denial.
"Your publications are correct to strive to be politically neutral in their reporting. But this should not extend to allowing a fascist party to have a platform through advertising."

Tags: , edl, press freedom, threats, journalists injured, bnp, harassment, bolton, newham and ilford recorder, archant, photographers