ICE blogs

June 5, 2008

Reed drops links to arms trade after journalists protest

Journalists at Reed Elsevier, publishers of more than 2,000 medical and scientific journals, have helped persuade the company to drop its ties to the arms trade. It represents a major victory for collective action to promote principled, ethical journalism. The company said on 29 May 2008 that it had sold the DSEi, ITEC and LAAD defence exhibitions to Britain’s largest independent exhibitions group, Clarion Events, for an undisclosed sum.

Reed’s decision to stop organizing defence shows followed a long campaign of protest by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade and by many of its staff. In particular, staff on Reed’s top medical title, the Lancet, claimed the journal could not be linked in any way to the arms industry. In a September 2005 editorial, it commented: ‘On behalf of our readers and contributors, we respectfully ask Reed Elsevier to divest itself of all business interests that threaten human, and especially civilian, health and well-being. Values of harm reduction and science-based decision making are the core of public-health practice.’

In addition, a group of internationally acclaimed writers including J.M. Coetzee, Ian McEwan and Arabella Weir, joined the protest, writing a public letter to coincide with the London Book Fair, a Reed-organised event. They were appalled their trade was ‘commercially connected to one which exacerbates insecurity and repression’. Shareholders also reduced their stakes in Reed promising not to re-invest until it cut all links with the defence exhibitions.


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