UK journalists union urges Labour to restore Asa Winstanley’s press pass

The UK’s National Union of Journalists has condemned the Labour Party for revoking the press pass of The Electronic Intifada’s Asa Winstanley.

It took the Labour Party nearly two weeks to issue a response to NUJ’s repeated requests for an explanation for the ban, the trade union said on Tuesday.

The NUJ said it was told by party officials that “Asa Winstanley is currently suspended as a member of the Labour Party and the terms of that suspension prevent him from attending Labour Party meetings.”

“It is wholly unacceptable for a journalist to be refused access in this way,” NUJ organizer David Ayrton said.

“An individual journalist’s political affiliation or party membership has no bearing on their work,” Ayrton added, calling the ban “a disturbing breach of press freedom.”

The union is calling on the party “to urgently resolve this matter sensibly and reinstate our member’s access.”

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 later, party officials abruptly claimed that the approval had never been given.

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

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 bogus accusations of anti-Semitism.

Last week more than two dozen prominent journalists launched a petition calling on Labour to restore Winstanley’s press pass.

To date, more than 2,600 people have signed it.

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What ever happened to freedom of the press? Due process? Not to mention the common decency not to slander and mischaracterize the views of people when you disagree.

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In providing journalistic coverage of the Labour Party conference, Asa Winstanley would not be attending the event. Those in attendance will be the delegates and officials of the party. That's what attending a conference means. It is preposterous to maintain that reporters who write about the conference are in some formal sense participants and thus subject to the authority of the party bureaucracy. While I would hope that Asa's party membership is restored and his name cleared of the false imputation of antisemitism, his exclusion from the party cannot form a basis for preventing him from performing his professional duties as a correspondent for this publication. The NUJ should petition the courts to overturn this act of petty despotism whose only purpose is to intimidate critics within the party itself. While Asa Winstanley is excluded, scribes employed by the likes of the Daily Mail, the BBC, and the Sun will be welcomed by the Labour Party and given every convenience and assistance in producing their diatribes against Corbyn and the membership. Are we to believe there is room for such an array of poisonous hacks yet no place for someone who reports on behalf of Palestinian rights? This cannot be allowed to stand.

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Ali Abunimah

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.