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Free speech under threat as advertising company "agrees" to remove UKIP poster

Clear Channel, one of the largest advertising companies in the UK, has reportedly agreed to stifle free political expression by removing a UKIP poster

by The Commentator on 29 March 2013 20:03

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Just hours after a new UKIP poster ad was spotted in Levenshulme, Manchester, a trade unionist-led campaign to have the advertisement removed has apparently led to success, in what opponents have called "a sad day for freedom of speech".

Campaigners online are boasting about the impending removal of a UK Independence Party poster positioned in "deep-red Labour territory".

The poster which reads, "Stop Open Door EU Immigration: Enough's Enough" has recently been posted in Levenshulme, an area of Manchester populated by around 12,000 people. Described as a 'multi-ethnic' area, Leveshulme has a significant immigrant population, with 2001 census figures showing a high Asian population, though little suggests a high EU-immigrant population.

The self-described trade unionist and socialist claiming responsibility for the campaign goes only by the name of "Sue" on Twitter. Her handle is BinTheConDems, a name suggesting the trashing of the Conservative (Con) and Liberal Democrat (Dems) coalition government in the UK.

Over the past few hours, "Sue" has called UKIP members "Nazis" and "racists", and claimed that she and others, "Just got an ad company to take down a UKIP poster where we live. After mass emails and calls from community".

At around 6pm, "Sue" tweeted, "Levenshulme email and phone call fast campaign means vile #UKIP poster being removed from high street." 

Campaigners also threatened to vandalise the poster themselves if their demands weren't met, with one, Rachamuffin, tweeting, "Which one of us has a ruddy big ladder. I've got paint and a head for heights!" While others continued, "Actually we don't need a ladder, just a catapult and paint bombs".

The story will cause great concern to freedom of speech campaigners as the targeting of a particular political party and a legitimate campaign runs contrary to freedom of expression in the UK. Political parties in the UK are not precluded from advertising on billboards, with the decision over content effectively being left to the company selling the advertising space, in this instance, Clear Channel. 

Clear Channel is one of the largest advertisement-space networks in the UK, boasting work with more than 300 local authorities in the UK and a workforce of over 5,000 internationally.

A UKIP spokesperson told The Commentator, "There is no evidence to support claims that Clear Channel have agreed to remove any posters. However, if it is true, and I hope it's not, then bowing to extremist, censorious demands like this would make it a sad day for freedom of speech indeed."

The row comes on the back of a spate of recent UKIP defections, and UKIP's rise in national polls as of late. 

In November last year, a couple in Rotherham were reported to have been discriminated against when adopting a child because of their support for UKIP. The decision was branded by senior cabinet member Michael Gove MP as, "indefensible".

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Updated - 21:58 29/03/13: Clear Channel has been in touch with The Commentator to state that no decision has yet been taken on the billboards, despite local campaigners stating the contrary. A Clear Channel spokesperson told The Commentator that the company will be reviewing complaints from both sides and taking a decision after the Bank Holiday weekend. 

Clear Channel's Twitter account updated at 22:06: "We have received complaints regarding a UKIP poster in Levenshulme, Manchester. We are currently reviewing these complaints we will provide an update once the review has been completed."

People wishing to comment can e-mail comms@clearchannel.co.uk

Read more on: levenshulme, ukip, manchester, free speech, and political advertising
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