Journalists call on Labour to restore Asa Winstanley’s press pass

Rows of people seated in large auditorium

“Ordinary Labour members now feel that they are forbidden from talking freely about their support for Palestinian human rights,” says Asa Winstanley.

Hannah McKay Reuters

More than two dozen prominent journalists have launched a petition calling on the Labour Party to restore the press pass of The Electronic Intifada’s Asa Winstanley.

An additional 900 people have signed on in just the first day.

“Asa Winstanley’s reporting for The Electronic Intifada, an influential Palestine news site, doubtless has many critics, as well as supporters. But robust, independent, investigative reporting is the litmus test of a free press,” the petition states.

“The fact that such reporting may arouse vehement opposition cannot excuse suppressing press freedom.”

Among the initial signers are the BAFTA award-winning documentary maker John Pilger, award-winning former Sunday Times journalist Hala Jaber, former BBC Middle East correspondent Tim Llewellyn, The Canary editor-in-chief Kerry-Anne Mendoza, Max Blumenthal and Aaron Maté of The Grayzone, and public intellectual Noam Chomsky.

“Laughable” Labour excuses

Jacob Ecclestone, former deputy general secretary of the UK’s National Union of journalists, has also signed on.

“The excuse offered by the party for withdrawing Mr. Winstanley’s press accreditation – that his membership of the Labour Party has been suspended and therefore he cannot attend any Labour Party meetings – would be laughable were it not such a serious matter,” Ecclestone said.

“Does the Labour Party now require all accredited journalists to be members of the party in good standing? That seems rather improbable.”

In July, the UK’s main opposition party informed Winstanley in writing that it had approved a press pass for him to cover its annual conference in September.

But just weeks after approving the pass, party officials abruptly claimed that the approval had never happened.

Facing criticism, party bureaucrats gave the excuse that Winstanley is under a disciplinary investigation.

“Heartening” support

That investigation, started in March, is part of a witch hunt against members who question the party’s crackdown on Palestinian rights supporters and the left based on routinely bogus accusations of anti-Semitism.

“The support I’m receiving is heartening, but it’s also a symptom of a much wider issue,” Winstanley said, reacting to the petition.

“Tens of thousands of ordinary Labour members now feel that they are forbidden from talking freely about their support for Palestinian human rights.”

“Members I talk to every week in the course of my reporting do not agree with the failed party line, which has too often indulged the manufactured anti-Semitism crisis,” Winstanley added.

“They don’t like seeing the party leadership back down time and time again. Fabricated allegations of anti-Semitism – which are the vast majority of cases – will not go away until they are aggressively confronted.”

The journalist vowed that no matter what happens, “I will never shut up or go away. I will continue reporting on this issue.”

Many other journalists and activists have shared the petition and expressed support online: