Reed urged to cut its arms links

Anita Pati

Campaign Against Arms Trade and Medact are urging publishing company Reed Elsevier to sever its links with an international arms fair in London this week.

The Reed subsidiary Spearhead Exhibitions is hosting the Defence Systems & Equipment International arms fair, one of the largest military exhibitions in the world, which began at the ExCel Centre in Docklands yesterday.

Reed also publishes medical journal The Lancet. The charities claim the two activities are incompatible.

Anna Jones, campaigns co-ordinator for CAAT, said: "Reed should not be involved with activities that go against the basic axiom of medical ethics to 'do no harm' - a principle central to the work of the readers and contributors to Reed's medical publications.

"Reed's arms fairs, including DSEi, promote weapons sales, ranging from small arms - the cause of around 500,000 fatalities annually - to cluster bombs and warships. They invite arms buyers from some of the world's most serious human-rights abusers."

The campaign prompted The Lancet to call for its owner to "divest itself" of any involvement with arms fairs globally. It was unaware of Reed's links to DSEi until tipped off by CAAT and Medact, which lobbies on global health issues.

The charities, backed by three other charities and ten public health experts, wrote a letter for publication a few weeks ago. Both the letter and The Lancet's editorial were published as part of a wider campaign of protests and demonstrations against the arms fair this week.

CAAT and local pressure groups East London Against the Arms Fair and Disarm DSEi 2005 have organised a host of events to coincide with the fair. These include a stand-up comedy fundraiser, a silent candle-lit procession organised by local churches and a musical protest.

A CAAT spokesman said he didn't expect Reed to cancel this week, but added it would be "pretty astonishing if it continued to organise it in 2007".

On Sunday, the Ministry of Defence, which sponsors the biennial event, published its list of official invitations to the fair. The list includes seven countries from the Foreign Office's own list of the world's top 20 human rights abusers, including Indonesia, China and Saudi Arabia.

KEY POINTS

- Campaign Against Arms Trade and Medact have called on Reed Elsevier to end its links with the international arms trade

- Spearhead Exhibitions, a subsidiary of Reed, is hosting the Defence Systems & Equipment International (DSEi) exhibition, which began yesterday

- CAAT and other direct-action groups are co-ordinating protest events to coincide with DSEi.

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