The Society of Editors has spoken of its concerns for press freedom and democracy following the decision by Pizza Hut to apologise for running a promotion with The Sun on Sunday.
The restaurant chain posted its apology on Twitter even before the promotion had run following complaints from objectors.
It is the latest advertiser to come under pressure for supporting a right-wing leaning publication and, says the Society, is part of a worrying trend that threatens to undermine freedom of speech and democracy in this country.
“Obviously, advertisers can decide where they wish to spend their money and which publications they wish to support, but what we are seeing here are what appear to be concerted, organised campaigns against just some newspapers by pressure groups,” commented Society of Editors Executive Director Ian Murray.
“In a free society it is imperative that voices are heard from across the political spectrum. By attacking advertisers who support just one side of the debate in an attempt to force publications out of business is dangerous for free speech and democracy.”
Pizza Hut had offered Sun on Sunday readers the chance to take advantage of a promotion for a free pizza but a few hours after publicising the offer on social media on Saturday it released a statement on its Twitter account stating; “We apologise for any offence caused as a result of this partnership.”
The statement added: “The aim of the offer was simply to give our customers the chance to enjoy a free pizza to share with their family and friends.”
It was reported that Pizza Hut’s Facebook account received 2,929 comments in response to the offer.
The company was also the subject of a tweet from the campaign group Stop Funding Hate.
Last month stationary store Paperchase apologised after provided a reader offer for the Daily Mail.
“The Society of Editors does not support any particular side in the political debate, but it does champion free speech and the open debate which underpins our democracy,” added Murray.
“If we are prepared to allow pressure groups and individuals, no matter how well-intended they may feel their protests are on a particular case, to bully companies into boycotting certain media, then what will be the next target?
“Advertisers also might consider why they wished to be associated with high-selling publications in the first place and what messages their apologies or any boycotts might be sending to the readers of those newspapers.
“The answer should never be to attempt to stifle debate, but to bring it out into the open. That is how a true democracy works.”