Arms trade activists spread the word at London Book Fair
Campaigners infiltrate literary event to highlight Reed Exhibitions' weapons fairs
A team of 20 campaigners from the UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) have taken to the floor of the London Book Fair this afternoon (Sunday 5 March) to tell visitors about the little-known commercial role of the Book Fair's organisers, Reed Exhibitions, in the global arms trade.
Having gained entry with ordinary visitors passes, the activists have fanned out throughout London's ExCel Centre, taking off their coats to reveal bright yellow T-shirts saying 'The organisers of the London Book Fair, Reed Exhibitions, also organise arms fairs'. They will be talking to as many visitors, publishers and booksellers as possible at this leading event in the international publishing calendar. Campaigners have also inserted over 1000 'Stop Arms Fairs' bookmarks in books throughout the Fair. Finally, in front of a media crowd gathered this morning to see the unveiling of the 'LongPen' device, they unravelled a huge banner calling upon 'Reed Elsevier stop organising arms fairs'.
Their aim is not to disrupt the Book Fair's activities in any way, but to publicise the deadly impact of Reed Exhibition's portfolio of international weapons fairs, some also held in the same venue as the London Book Fair.
Their action follows a public call this week from 13 leading authors, including Nobel Literature prize-winners J.M. Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer, and six winners of the Man Booker Prize. The writers signed a public letter, published in the Times Literary Supplement on Thursday (2 March), urging Reed Exhibitions to end their involvement in the arms trade.
As well as organising a host of ordinary trade fairs, Reed Exhibitions, an arm of Anglo-Dutch publishing giants Reed Elsevier, also organise arms fairs in London, Rio de Janeiro, Taipei, Cambridgeshire, Southampton, Paris and Singapore.
Last September, at London's
ExCel Centre, Reed Exhibitions organised Europe's largest arms fair, Defence
Systems and Equipment International (DSEi). Exhibitors there offered weaponry
ranging from small arms – the cause of an estimated 500,000 casualties
annually – to tanks and cluster bombs.
Military buyers are invited to DSEi from some of the world's most violent and repressive regimes, including Colombia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and China, currently subject to a United Nations arms embargo. Although Reed claims that its arms fairs are subject to “the highest standards of scrutiny and compliance with the law”, at DSEi one company was found openly (and illegally) advertising torture equipment.
Despite opposition from the local community, London's mayor and even the Metropolitan Police, Reed Elsevier plans to bring its arms fair back to London in 2007.
In September Reed Elsevier's flagship scientific publication, The Lancet, called upon its owners to end their involvement in the arms trade, following a critical statement issued by public health experts from five continents, also coordinated by CAAT.
CAAT spokeswoman Anna Jones
"The London Book Fair is about communicating and exchanging ideas. Our campaigners are at the Book Fair today to say something its organisers, Reed Exhibitions, don't want communicated: that their portfolio of international arms fairs brings together arms dealers and some of the world's most brutal regimes. It's time they stopped.”
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