NUJ voices concern over arrest of French publisher

  • 18 Apr 2023

Ernest M. foreign rights manager for the French publisher Editions La Fabrique, was arrested by British police under terrorism legislation when he arrived in London for the London Book Fair.

Pamela Morton, NUJ senior books and magazines organizer, said:

“The arrest of Ernest is extremely concerning. It seems extraordinary that the British police have acted this way in using terrorism legislation to arrest the publisher who was on legitimate business here for the London Book Fair. We will be taking this up with the police and urge members to join to protest at the French Institute in London at 7pm and a simultaneous protest at the British Embassy in Paris.”

Update: the NUJ has now written to the Met Police Commissioner calling on the police to drop all proceedings and prosecutions against Ernest and for his phone and computer be immediately returned. 

Jonathan Hall KC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, has announced that he is reviewing the circumstances of the use of Schedule 7 in this case.

Grahame Morris, chair of the union's cross-party Parliamentary Group, has put down an early day motion EDM 1082 Freedom of expression and use of counter-terrorism powers which  highlights the arrest of French publisher Ernest M and calls for an urgent review to ensure that Schedule 7 powers  in the Terrorism Act are not being abused to suppress democratic and human rights and criminalise political dissent in the UK or overseas. Ask your MP to sign it.

JOINT PRESS RELEASE by Éditions La Fabrique (Paris) and Verso Books (London)

We are writing this press release to protest at the scandalous treatment of the French citizen Mr. Ernest M., foreign rights manager for the French publisher Editions La Fabrique and the [well known science fiction] author Alain Damasio (Editions La Volte).

Ernest M. came to London yesterday evening 17 April by Eurostar for the London Book Fair, which takes place at Olympia over 3 days from 18-20 April. Ernest had over thirty appointments planned with foreign publishers and had a return ticket to Paris for Friday 21 April. He is invited to the reception this evening at the French Institute at which the French Ambassador will be present.

On arrival at St Pancras Station, Ernest was pulled aside by police officers acting under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and detained for questioning without a lawyer present, allegedly to determine whether he was engaged in terrorist acts or in possession of material for use in terrorism.

The police officers claimed that Ernest had participated in demonstrations in France as a justification for this act - a quite remarkably inappropriate statement for a British police officer to make and which seems to clearly indicate complicity between French and British authorities on this matter.

It was demanded that he give up his phone and pass codes to the officers, with no justification or explanation offered. This morning, Ernest was formally arrested and transferred to a police station, accused of obstruction because of his refusal to give up his pass codes. He remains in police custody.

We consider these actions to be outrageous and unjustifiable infringements of basic principles of the freedom of expression and an example of the abuse of anti-terrorism laws.

We consider that this assault on the freedom of expression of a publisher is yet another manifestation of the slide towards repressive and authoritarian measures taken by the current French government in the face of widespread popular discontent and protest. It is crucial for all defenders of basic democratic values to express in the strongest terms that we find this intolerable and outrageous.

There will be a protest at the French Institute in London at 7pm. We call on the French Ambassador, Helene Duchene, to request Ernest’s immediate release. There will also be a simultaneous protest at the British Embassy in Paris.

[email protected]

[email protected]

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