The Guardian newspaper has defended its sponsorship of a careers fair that includes the multinational arms company, BAE Systems.
Campaigners say that the newspaper's sponsorship of the event is at odds with its longstanding investigative journalism into widespread allegations of corruption by BAE.
The event, the London Graduate Fair, is run by the University of London Careers Group. Around fifteen peaceful protesters were forcibly removed from the fair on 19 October, after protesting against BAE's presence. Some lay down in front of BAE's stand, while others interrupted a presentation by the company.
The incident was one of a wave of anti-arms protests that have taken place at university recruitment events in recent months. Security staff at Edinburgh University closed a careers fair in October after around twelve campaigners lay down in front of BAE's stall.
A spokesperson for Guardian News and Media (GNM) told Ekklesia that, “The Guardian is a media sponsor for the event but it is a matter for the Careers Group to decide which exhibitors to select”.
The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) told Ekklesia that they recognised that the Guardian is not involved in the operational planning of the event.
But they urged the Guardian to “use its position as media sponsor of the Guardian Graduate Fair to make the case to the Careers Group to exclude BAE and other arms companies from future graduate fairs”.
Abi Haque, Co-ordinator of CAAT's Universities Network, said that the newspaper's sponsorship of the Graduate Fair “lends legitimacy to a company whose shady activities the Guardian has done so much to expose”.
The Guardian said that the fair “gives opportunities for students to meet a range of organisations and make a decision for themselves about potential employers”.
But Haque insisted that “the fair did not provide students with the information to make 'a decision for themselves' about BAE Systems”. She said that “key information” was not mentioned, such as the selling of weapons to states listed as “countries of concern” by the Foreign Office's own Human Rights Report, or the widespread controversies over corruption.
Asked about protesters' allegations of heavy-handedness by security staff, GNM's spokesperson said, “security is a matter for the venue’s security team and the police”. Activists say they were dragged away by their arms and legs immediately after lying down in front of BAE's stand.