Publisher hits back after hate campaign

THE publisher of The Press has made a robust defence of the newspaper after an anonymous hate campaign was started against the business and its customers.

Advertisers, newsagents and Kirklees councillors all received an unsigned letter calling for paper to be boycotted and making veiled threats by “the community” if they refused.

The letter accompanied a special edition of an independent fortnightly news sheet in Bradford called Urban Echo, which featured a two-page profile of publisher Danny Lockwood.

In further developments, all Kirklees councillors and senior officers were sent an anonymous email on Wednesday accusing The Press of exploiting local people with special needs by having them deliver the newspaper.

A number of angry Press customers phoned Urban Echo publisher Irfan Ajeeb. One of them said he was told by Ajeeb that 2,000 copies of a special Kirklees edition were ordered by a Dewsbury businessman whose identity he claimed not to know.

Questioned later by a Press journalist, Ajeeb denied that.

He also attributed the article about Lockwood to a colleague who was no longer at the business,  despite The Press owner having a record of their conversation.

Mr Lockwood, who founded The Press in 2002, said: “I can laugh off these cowardly attacks on my character but what I can’t ignore are these vile suggestions that we would exploit vulnerable people.

“For many years we have worked with local groups related to social services, whose special needs users have a part-time job delivering The Press.

“They are paid, they are supervised, it brings them into contact with local people and businesses, and we are proud of our partnership.

“Irfan Ajeeb rang me two weeks ago and it was clear he was being manipulated by people we’ve upset in some way. I imagine that whoever put him up to this is quite disappointed. The ‘profile’ on me is both poorly-written and not even very critical. Ajeeb did use a nice photo of me though – although he’s breached copyright, so there will be a bill in the post for that.

“This week Ajeeb told us that he was being inundated by complaints about my book The Islamic Republic of Dewsbury.

“Really? It was published nearly five years ago! And as you’d expect, he hasn’t read it.

"He told me he’s a Muslim who likes a pint and doesn’t like Dewsbury – I’ll bet he doesn’t, now that he’s been stitched up like a kipper.”

The Press has a copy of the unsigned letter sent to local newsagents. It said it was “to express my local community’s ongoing concerns regarding the continuing sale of The Press at your store”.

It accuses the paper of having racist undertones and promoting conflict rather than integration and adds that it has “now reached the point that our community is considering extending our boycott to not only The Press but to advertisers within, and vendors of this newspaper”.

Mr Lockwood added: “This is not the first time we’ve had an attack like this and I’ve been advised that it’s the same person behind it this time.

“I’ll say again what I have said before. We see news, crime and corruption, not colour or creed.

"If one community has a disproportionate share of people either in court for dealing drugs, or causing controversy in public life, then that’s going to be reflected in any newspaper’s pages. It would be perverse if it didn’t.

“This individual hasn’t the guts to put his name to his barely-veiled threats and he daren’t even invoke the actual name of his Muslim community, just imply it and hope no-one notices.

“I don’t think Dewsbury and Batley businessmen and women of any community will be bullied by these cowardly tactics. The Press certainly won’t be.”

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