Yesterday, 30thNovember, our friends at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK (PSC) launched a public action calling for the New Statesman to republish an article by Salah Ajarma, co-founder and Director of the Lajee Cultural Centre in Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem.
The New Statesman originally published the piece as part of a two year partnership with the PSC, but deleted it without warning or explanation, following a campaign by the pro-Israel blogs UK Media Watch and Honest Reporting. Within 24 hours of PSC launching the public action over 3,000 people have emailed Jason Cowley, the editor of the New Statesman, calling on him to republish the article, apologise to Salah, and affirm the New Statesman’s commitment to freedom of expression.
“All of those, including journalists, who have a concern about justice and fair reporting, will be deeply alarmed at the New Statesman caving in to external pressure and agreeing to censor a Palestinian voice.” Ben Jamal, PSC
“Living under occupation we are used to our voices being silenced by Israel – but we expect better from the UK which is supposed to be a democracy” Salah Ajarma
Salah’s article describes the experiences of young Palestinian refugees in Aida camp and how Israel’s illegal settlements impact on his life and the lives of people in his community. Salah’s article was seen and approved by New Statesman editorial team before it was published online and read and shared by many thousands.
A few days later – without notice or explanation – the article was suddenly removed. The New Statesman has since refused to give an explanation to Salah and PSC as to why this action was taken. In an email to the PSC, the New Statesman initially stated that the article had been removed as a result of ‘reader complaints’, they would not give detail on the nature of the complaints or from whom they had been received.
Despite numerous requests, New Statesman Editor Jason Cowley, refused to have a conversation about the issue or to take any calls from PSC. PSC received a final email from the New Statesman, seven days after the article had been removed, indicating that the article had been removed because it conflicted with the magazines editorial independence and stating that they would not be offering any further comment or having any further conversations with PSC.
PSC has been working with the New Statesman for two years to co-host events at Party Conferences and commission and publish online pieces. Three articles were published as part of this arrangement in 2015. This year the focus has been on Israel’s illegal settlement programme, Salah’s was the second in a series of five agreed articles. The articles published complimented the events hosted at the Labour Party and SNP conferences earlier this year.
PSC Director Ben Jamal said:
“PSC has had five articles published by the New Statesman within the terms of the partnership agreement in 2015 and 2016. Following the publication of Salah Arjama’s article a number of pro-Israel blogs started a campaign for the New Statesman to end its partnership with PSC and cease publishing the articles.
“It is a sad reflection of the political climate we inhabit that voices raised in support of the Palestinian struggle for justice and equal rights routinely face a concerted lobby to silence them. We expect journals like the New Statesman to withstand such pressure and demonstrate a commitment to freedom of expression. All of those, including journalists, who have a concern about justice and fair reporting, will be deeply alarmed at the New Statesman caving in to external pressure and agreeing to censor a Palestinian voice.
“If it is to restore its reputation as a journal of merit the New Statesman needs to re-publish Salah’s article and offer him an apology for the astonishing disrespect it has shown to him and to his work.”
“Living under occupation we are used to our voices being silenced by Israel – but we expect better from the UK which is supposed to be a democracy” – Salah Ajarma
Thousand of people have emailed the New Statesman in solidarity to complain that their decision undermines freedom of expression and gives encouragement to those who seek to bully and intimidate media outlets in order to supress the publication of Palestinian voices. We are asking you all to contact the New Statesman here and call on them to:
- Republish the article
- Offer an apology to Salah Ajarma for removing it without good cause
- Make a clear public statement affirming their commitment to upholding the principle of freedom of expression