British newspaper Guardian apologises for founders’ slavery links

LONDON – The owner of British newspaper The Guardian apologised on Tuesday for the role of its founders in transatlantic slavery and announced a “decade-long programme of restorative justice”, following an independent investigation.

The more than two-year “academic review” into the newspaper’s early 19th century creation discovered its main founder John Edward Taylor and many of his financial backers had links to slavery, the paper said.

Researchers from the universities of Hull and Nottingham found that Mr Taylor – a journalist and cotton merchant – and at least nine of his 11 financial backers had slavery links, primarily through the textile industry.

The Scott Trust, which owns the media group, plans to invest more than £10 million (S$16.4 million) into restorative justice, with millions earmarked for “descendant communities linked to the Guardian’s founders”, the paper added.

“The Scott Trust is deeply sorry for the role John Edward Taylor and his backers played in the cotton trade,” its chair Ole Jacob Sunde said.

The trust also apologised for early editorial positions that “served to support the cotton industry, and therefore the exploitation of enslaved people”.

“We recognise that apologising and sharing these facts transparently is only the first step in addressing the Guardian’s historical links to slavery,” Mr Sunde added.

A lengthy “Scott Trust Legacies of Enslavement” report published on Tuesday detailed the academic findings about the 1821 founding of the left-leaning newspaper by Manchester businessmen.

They include that Mr Taylor’s partnerships and merchant company imported vast amounts of raw cotton produced by enslaved people in the Americas.

The researchers confirmed some of the paper’s early financiers, such as the merchant George Philips, co-owned sugar and other plantations that used slave labour.

The trust’s restorative fund will support projects, in parts of the United States and Jamaica where slavery once proliferated, over the next decade following consultation with reparations experts and community groups.

The Guardian said the trust will detail a precise figure to be invested and how it would be allocated within the next year.

It vowed to raise awareness of transatlantic slavery and its legacies, as well as increase media diversity, relevant academic research and the “scope and ambition” of the paper’s reporting.

The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Ms Katharine Viner, said it was “facing up to, and apologising for, the fact that our founder and those who funded him drew their wealth from a practice that was a crime against humanity”. AFP

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