When I read that the board of West Highland Free Press (WHFP) had dispensed with the services of both Brian Wilson and Professor Donald McLeod (your report, 11 July) I was intrigued as to what the fuss was about.
I looked at the full text of the professor’s article that seems to have sparked the controversy. In a reflective piece on whether the growth of Islam is consistent with Western ideals of liberty, he writes: “Once the Nazis achieved ascendancy, friendly German neighbours suddenly became informants for the Gestapo; and in the event of Islamic dominance in Britain our friendly Muslim shopkeepers will have little option but to march behind the radicals.”
I think this view is mistaken but it is one that had to be defended in terms of freedom of speech.
It is still understandable that the WHFP board felt that it would cause offence to a large number of its readers even outwith the Muslim community.
Newspaper editorial teams have to be sensitive to what they perceive as readers’ attitudes. Most of us can see that a direct comparison between Nazi surveillance techniques and attitudes of many of our local shopkeepers can be seen as offensive.
The board may have felt that it had no option but to cease publication of columns by Professor McLeod.
Former MP Brian Wilson has always been a journalist at heart and deserves credit for developing the newspaper as a bastion of free thought and investigation long before he was elected to parliament.
All the more sad that his association with it should end because he felt he had to defend that freedom.
It still leaves us all pondering about where the limits to press freedom should lie, where the boundaries of the right to cause offence should rest, and whether an outstanding regional newspaper has lost some of its reputation for independence.