19 May 2009

NUJ criticises Newsquest over BNP website advertising

The National Union of Journalists has criticised the regional newspaper publisher Newsquest for accepting advertising from the British National party.

In recent days, a number of Newsquest websites, including the Bromsgrove Advertiser, the Redditch Advertiser and Stourbridge News, have carried banner and video adverts from the far-right political party. The ads have since been removed from the newspaper sites.

The video ads, which appeared in the right-hand column of some websites, contained a message saying "British jobs for British workers".

Nick Griffin, the BNP party leader, then urged readers to vote for the party in European elections on 4 June, before asking them for a £3 donation to his party.

The ads have caused protests, with the NUJ claiming that accepting money from a far-right organisation would seriously damage the reputation of the company's titles and its journalists.

"Newsquest should be ashamed of itself for taking money from an organisation that advocates racist policies that would directly discriminate against the communities these websites serve," said the NUJ general secretary, Jeremy Dear.

"It seems incredible that managers would even consider taking advertising from the BNP. Many journalists who have investigated the party in the past have since found themselves on far-right hate websites that try to intimidate journalists to stop them from taking up investigations."

The union called on its chapels to raise objections with management if BNP adverts feature in Newsquest papers or the company's websites.

A spokesman for Newsquest Stourbridge declined to comment, but referred MediaGuardian.co.uk a response it issued to readers who complained about the ads.

"We accept advertisements that comply with the law and the code of advertising practice. We cannot selectively discriminate against legally constituted political parties standing in a public election," said the Newsquest response.

"Indeed, we would say that, in doing so, we might be playing into the hands of those intolerant and anti-democratic forces that people condemn. It is for the electorate to cast judgment, not us."

Newsquest's head office in Weybridge, Surrey, had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

The Guardian

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