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Thursday 24th May 2018

The Lancet and the arms trade

28th March 2007

In an editorial, The Lancet says that its parent company's involvement in the arms trade is incompatible with the values of a health and science publisher, calling on Reed Elsevier to divest that part of its business.

Violence and Aggression

The journal's editors say they have already brought up the issue with parent company Reed Elsevier, and while the company supported their right to say what they did, they declined to respond with a change in behaviour.

Since then, Reed Elsevier has run two additional arms fairs.

"The small arms business is responsible for 200,000 gun homicides annually, most in low-income and middle-income countries that are least able or willing to control the trade in weapons. Gun violence contributes to poverty, food insecurity, health-system disruption, and civilian deaths. Organising arms exhibitions helps to increase access to weapons and so encourage violence. This is in direct breach of recommendations from WHO in its landmark World Report on Violence and Health," The Lancet editorial runs.

It also says it has confirmed independently reports that the 2007 International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi in February included 500 kg cluster bombs, which cause death and industry mostly among children.

It notes growing alarm at the "current misalliance" of interests, citing a petition objecting to Reed Elsevier's involvement in the arms trade, and calls for a boycott of The Lancet by those conducting clinical trials. One investor has recently sold a £2 million stake in Reed Elsevier over the issue, it adds.

It warns that Reed Elsevier's present stance was leading the journal into a situation where its credibility and authority might be seriously compromised.

"We cannot imagine that Reed Elsevier seeks such an outcome for The Lancet or any of the thousands of journals it publishes," the editors write.

"The Lancet reaffirms its view that arms exhibitions have no legitimate place within the portfolio of a company whose core business concerns are health and science," they say, calling on Reed Elsevier to divest itself of this part of its business "as soon as possible".

But it affirms the "complete editorial freedom" the journal is given by Reed Elsevier, saying that the company's publishing division operates with "the highest standards of scientific, medical, and publishing ethics".


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