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Friday August 17, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


SA airport authorities censor Avaaz ads urging Zuma to ban the lion bone trade


JOHANNESBURG -- A hard-hitting ad campaign in Johannesburg Airport’s International Arrival Hall calling on President Zuma to ban the trade of lion bones has been ordered to be taken down by the state-controlled airport’s owners. The ads were launched on August 9th by global advocacy organisation Avaaz.org.

The adverts, which are plastered across the International Arrivals Hall, show a picture of a gun pointing at the head of a lion and President Zuma standing behind it. It reads: “Our lions are being slaughtered to make bogus sex potions for Asia. Will President Zuma save them? Urge him to stop the deadly lion bone trade now.” The ads, photos available here, have been seen by thousands of people arriving at the International Airport in the past week.

Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport is operated by ACSA (Airports Company South Africa) which is majority-owned by the South African government. Yesterday, the South African ad firm Primedia, which Avaaz contracted to display the posters, was ordered by ACSA to pull down the creative with immediate effect.

Emma Ruby-Sachs, campaign director at Avaaz, said:This censorship smells of political interference and attacks the voices of hundreds of thousands of world citizens who are urging South Africa’s President to protect its lions. The government-controlled airport authority is undermining freedom of expression and political dissent.”

The striking ads kick-started the second phase of a global campaign that began on June 27th with a petition to President Zuma, signed by over 700,000 people worldwide, drawing attention to the lion bone trade and the detrimental reputational impact it may have on South Africa’s tourism industry.

“We will fight to protect these ads, which call for an end to the slaughter of lions across South Africa and urge the airport authority to provide a legitimate reason for this censorship”, added Ruby-Sachs.

South Africa is the largest exporter of lion bones and latest government figures show a 250% increase in these exports between 2009 and 2010. Although most lion bones come from ‘canned hunting’ farms in South Africa, experts fear that as demand rises, even wild lions are starting to come under poaching attack. Lion bones are highly sought after to make phony ‘medicines’ in some parts of Asia and are worth thousands of dollars in the market.

ENDS

For further information or interview requests please contact Will Davies on +44 7855 419901 or [email protected]