Campaigners in England behind posters proclaiming Michael Jackson’s innocence have criticised the decision to remove their adverts from London buses.
They have said silencing their campaign is “not right” for either free speech or the presumption of innocence, and that people are “offended by anything”.
Posters, plastered on London buses, stated: “Facts don’t lie. People do.” alongside an image of Michael Jackson with the word “Innocent” across his mouth.
The posters were created in response to the Leaving Neverland documentary, which aired in two parts on Channel 4 at the beginning of the month.
It featured Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who alleged that they were sexually abused by Jackson.
Transport for London (TfL) announced that it would be taking the posters down for “public sensitivity” reasons, having initially signed off the campaign, which was in line with advertising guidelines.
Organisers with the MJ Innocent campaign have condemned the decision to pull the previously approved adverts, claiming it was an attack on free speech and the presumption of innocence.
Anika Kotecha, of the MJ Innocent campaign, told the Press Association: “We’re disappointed. It’s not right that an organisation like TfL caves under pressure.
“We’re at a bit of a loss to figure out why TfL has made this decision. It is not about posters, but a statement on the presumption of innocence.
“Something that we see more and more these days is that an accusation simply has to be made and you have to believe it, otherwise you get accused of victim shaming.
“That’s absolutely not the case. The accused also have rights.
“We have these two accusers. They are afforded a prime-time TV platform to air their accusations.
“When you try to present the other side of the story, you are told you can’t.”
MJ Innocent has had, according to organisers, a “phenomenal response” to its call for funding.
The crowdfunding campaign has so far raised more than £20,000 from devoted fans and supporters.
The campaigners, who were behind the London bus posters, have said it is unfair that they should be silenced due to pressure from the “offended”, and have said that the decision by TfL is stifling their freedom of speech.
MJ Innocent will be seeking reimbursement for the money they invested in the London bus campaign, unless TfL reverses its decision to remove the adverts.
Mrs Kotecha said: “I definitely feel that it is unfair. Just because someone somewhere has been offended, that’s not a strong enough reason.
“People are offended by just about anything these days.
Leaving Neverland: Michael Jackson and Me - the documentary of two men's accounts of being sexually abused by Michael Jackson - concludes tonight 9pm. pic.twitter.com/1D4yYyKzDe— Channel 4 (@Channel4) March 7, 2019
“We want people to not take what they are being told as fact. Just because someone is saying something does not make it irrefutable.”
The adverts were in place on the side of some London buses for several weeks, but will now be removed.
A TfL spokeswoman said: “We have reviewed our position and will be removing these advertisements.
“They have been rejected due to the public sensitivity and concern around their content.”
The posters were assessed by the TfL advertising agencies, and passed up to TfL for approval.
The posters were given the green light in accordance with Committee of Advertising Practice guidelines.
A spokeswoman for Channel 4 said: “Channel 4 have been pleased to note the positive reaction to this documentary by victims of child sexual abuse, charities and professionals who support them.”
- Press Association