A controversial event featuring a number of speakers who support the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has been cancelled by Leeds City Council.
The Media on Trial event was due to host two UK academics to discuss whether British journalists reporting from opposition-held areas in Syria should be prosecuted under the UK Terrorism Act.
Professor Piers Robinson of the University of Sheffield, and Professor Tim Hayward of the University of Edinburgh, were to speak alongside, among others, a man who has described the Sandy Hook massacre as a “mass shooting hoax”.
A report by HuffPost UK earlier this week drew attention to the event, the website of which said a panel of experts will discuss how media organisations “embed its journalists directly with terrorist forces” and “disseminate material directly from terrorist sources”.
The event listing added: “The question therefore arises, by aligning itself to terrorist organisations, by gaining entry into sovereign nations by way of these forces and by reporting their line while misleading the general public that they are merely ‘Activists’ or ‘Opposition forces’, has the mainstream print and broadcast media acted in contravention of the UK Terrorism Act?”
A spokesman for Leeds City Council said in a statement: “Leeds City Museum recently received a request to host a panel discussion on May 27. Since accepting the booking, we have been made aware of further details regarding some of the content and discussion topics which would be part of the event.
“Whilst the council and museums service are always in favour of promoting free speech and debate, our booking policy clearly states that events are subject to cancellation.”
The statement added: “In line with that policy, we have decided that the museum is not an appropriate venue for this event and have informed the organisers that their booking has been cancelled.”
Other speakers listed were include:
- Peter Ford - a former UK ambassador to Syria who took over from Bashar al-Assad’s father-in-law as head of the British Syrian Society after emails were published showing the former director had advised Assad how to counter videos appearing to show the Syrian regime torturing children.
- Vanessa Beeley - a British blogger who campaigns against the White Helmets.
- Robert Stuart - a man who believes the BBC faked the aftermath of an attack in Syria.
James Le Mesurier, founder of MayDay Rescue, the NGO that trains and equips the White Helmets, welcomed the decision, adding: “While claiming to be ‘independent investigative truth-seekers’ these speakers are in fact pro-Assad activists who, ignoring inconvenient facts, claim to be the only trustable voice on Syria.”