Fw: [en] UK's GANDALF TRIAL & FREEDOM OF THE PRESS

Meletis (mlk@hol.gr)
Sat, 13 Sep 1997 19:27:02 +0300


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Subject: UK's GANDALF TRIAL & FREEDOM OF THE PRESS Date: Sept 10, 1997 From: Corporate Watch , Reclaim the Streets, Squall, The McLibel Support Campaign

On the weekend of September 5th - 7th over seventy representatives of various radical publications met in Oxford for the first "Alternative Media Gathering." One of the issues discussed was the current "Gandalf Five" Trial going on in Portsmouth, involving editors from Green Anarchist (GA) and the Animal Liberation Front Support Group newsletter (ALF). "Gandalf" comes from GAandALF

We are going to publish the following statement on Wednesday 17th September. We are looking for as many publications, organisations and individuals as possible to sign the statement.

There are three categories of signing:

(1) Publications/organisations present at the gathering; (2) Individuals from the gathering signing in a personal capacity; (3) journals, organisations and individuals who weren't at the gathering, but who are in support of the statement.

We need your responses as soon as possible - preferably by Friday 12th, at the latest by midday on Tuesday 16th September. If signing in a personal capacity, please provide either your profession or the name of the organisation with which you're most involved:

Please respond, copy and distribute by all means possible - including abroad. Tell us who you've told. Send responses to:

Corporate Watch phone - 01865 791 391 e-mail - mail@corporatewatch.i-way.co.uk post - Box E, 111 Magdalen Road, Oxford OX4 1RQ (please try to use phone number or e-mail).

This initiative is separate to the "Gandalf Six Defendants' Campaign" (who can be contacted: "Gandalf Defendants' Campaign", PO Box 66, Stevenage, SG1 2TR ).

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Statement of Solidarity with the defendants in the "Gandalf" Trial.

We the undersigned are writing to express our solidarity with the five editors currently on trial in Portsmouth, England, on charges of "conspiracy to incite persons unknown to commit criminal damage". We condemn this charge as a violation of journalistic freedom. Without a fearless and free press there can be no informed discussion and participation in public life.

On January 16th 1996 six people - four editors of Green Anarchist (GA) magazine, Animal Liberation Front (ALF) Support Group newsletter and the ALF press officer - were arrested and charged, on the basis of news and comment they had included in their respective publications and press releases. The charges carry a maximum prison sentence of ten years. The trial began at Portsmouth Crown Court on August 26th against five of the six. "Public Interest Immunity" Certificates have been used to suppress evidence of secret service actions in the gathering of evidence.

Many publications include coverage of direct action. This case opens the way for similar attacks on any publication deemed to be in favour of such action. If the reporting of direct action can constitute incitement this has very worrying implications for freedom of speech.

Green Anarchist can be seen as an easy target, due to its outspoken and radical content. The police have been the prime movers behind this case - "Operation Washington", as the lead-up was known, involved 55 police raids and, at its height, employed sixty officers. It is vital that the press - alternative, independent, radical, liberal and establishment - unite to defend the basic freedoms under attack in this case: freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It is not for the police to determine the limits of our discussions.

We call on all concerned to vigorously defend freedom of the press. We call on editors and journalists to fairly report the case and issues, and we call on the Crown Prosecution and Judge to drop the case.

It is not the reporting of direct action which incites further direct action; environmental degradation, animal abuse, economic injustice, attacks on freedom, weapons exports, nuclear weapons, lack of democratic process - these, among many others, are the inciting factors.

Catch-all incitement and conspiracy charges threaten not only radical publications, but anyone making statements which could be interpreted as inflamatory. Any debate by any columnist potentially falls into this category:

The attack on Green Anarchist and the Animal Liberation Front Support Group Newsletter is an attack on freedom and an attack on us all.

------- Corporate Watch , Reclaim the Streets, Squall, The McLibel Support Campaign -------

(Add your name or organisation and send to <mail@corporatewatch.i-way.co.uk> or the phone or mail address above.)

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