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CAMPAIGNERS accused Richard Branson of kowtowing to pressure from right-wing media bosses today after he ordered Virgin Trains to resume sales of the Daily Mail.
The train operator banned sales of the right-wing rag in November due to “considerable concern” from employees about its stance on immigration, LGBT rights and unemployment.
News of the ban emerged last week when an internal memo was leaked, prompting immediate outrage from the Mail which accused the firm of censorship against pro-Brexit newspapers.
Mr Branson was quick to side with the Mail, claiming that the decision had been made without his knowledge.
In a blogpost today the rail boss wrote that Virgin Trains “must not ever be seen to be censoring what our customers read and influencing their freedom of choice.
“Instead we should stand up for the values we hold dear and defend them publicly, as I have done with the Mail on many issues over the years.”
Mr Branson has instructed Virgin Trains to reconsider the decision while it reviews its sales policy, saying it “should not single out individual media titles.”
Media Reform Coalition chair Justin Schlosberg disputed Mr Branson’s reasons for lifting the ban, suggesting that he may have been pressed to resume sales by Daily Mail bosses to preserve Virgin’s advertising space in the paper.
The coalition is a network of groups and individuals that support ethical journalism.
“The true power lies with Paul Dacre and Lord Rothermere,” Mr Schlosberg said, referring to the Mail editor and the Daily Mail General Trust chairman, adding that Mr Branson will only “stand up and shout when it affects his business.”
Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom national organiser Josef Davies-Coates told the Star that Virgin Trains was “not censoring anything. Anyone can buy the paper and take it on board.”
Virgin has been urged by campaign group Stop Funding Hate to pull advertising from the Daily Mail rather than banning its sales.
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