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USA: Bayer allegedly failing to respect int'l human rights standards by financially supporting Sean Hannity Show through advertising, inc. company response

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Article
16 April 2018

Submission to UN Working Group from Christopher Avery re Bayer’s continued support of the Sean Hannity Show

Author: Christopher Avery

I am concerned that the German-headquartered pharmaceutical company Bayer publicly proclaims its commitment to respecting human rights... but Bayer’s continued funding of the Sean Hannity Show on Fox News through its advertising is undermining internationally-recognized human rights... [T]he concerns are:

  • Repeated attacks by Sean Hannity on the independent press - by helping to enable this through its advertising, Bayer is failing to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19) and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
  • Repeated calls by Sean Hannity for the firing of the special prosecutor investigating attempts to subvert the fairness of the 2016 U.S. election - by helping to enable this, Bayer is failing to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 21) and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. 

I am bringing this to the Working Group's attention because of these specific human rights concerns relating to Bayer’s conduct, and because of the broader issues at play here, set forth in section 2 of my January letter to Bayer, “The broader U.S. and international context of these human rights concerns”.

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NGO rejoinder
6 March 2018

Christopher Avery rejoinder to Bayer response re failing to respect human rights standards by advertising on Sean Hannity Show

Author: Christopher Avery

The 4 March 2018 response by Bayer is very disappointing. The company apparently has decided to continue funding and sponsoring the Sean Hannity Show via its advertising. As explained in my 23 January 2018 letter to Bayer, this contributes to the undermining of internationally-recognized human rights and democratic institutions through Hannity’s repeated, hostile attacks on journalists and on Special Counsel Robert Mueller... Bayer says in its response that “Bayer, like any advertiser who purchases large packages of advertising time, runs the risk of having an occasional ad run on a network that broadcasts programming that may be seen as offensive.” That statement is misleading. Bayer’s advertising on the Sean Hannity Show is not accidental. Bayer has advertised extensively and repeatedly on the Sean Hannity Show.

... People are fed up with companies that adopt a human rights policy and pledge to respect human rights, then fail to implement that policy in practice when it is inconvenient for them. The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provide that all companies must respect human rights, including in their business relationships. In this case, through its financial support of the Sean Hannity Show, Bayer has become complicit with Hannity’s attacks on journalists and on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

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Company response
4 March 2018

Bayer response re failing to respect human rights standards by advertising on Sean Hannity Show

Author: Bayer

Bayer clearly does not condone nor support the statements made by Mr. Hannity, and we have strongly expressed our concerns to Premiere Networks and Fox News. Opinions or views expressed by the network's news programs hosts or correspondents are solely theirs, and do not necessarily reflect those of Bayer... Bayer does work to exercise good judgment in selecting programming on which to advertise. We regularly evaluate our advertising placement, and make sound judgments to continue or discontinue based upon our beliefs, values and ethical considerations.

... We would like to point out that we have expressed this view by email to Mr. Avery already on January 4, 2018 and in a phone call following that email... [P]lease be assured, that Bayer fully supports human rights and has set out its stance in a binding corporate policy, Bayer’s Position on Human Rights. We are committed to respecting and fostering human rights within our sphere of influence and to reporting transparently on the results of our activities in this area.

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Article
23 January 2018

Letter to Bayer re human rights concerns

Author: Christopher Avery

Bayer lends financial support (via advertising) to Hannity’s repeated attacks on the independent media, Bayer thereby failing to respect [int'l human rights standards]... An independent press is fundamental to democracy and human rights... [T]he independent media in the United States is under siege as never before, and Sean Hannity is taking the lead attacking the independent media persistently on his Fox News television show... Bayer [also] lends financial support (via advertising) to Hannity’s repeated calls for the firing of the special prosecutor investigating attempts to subvert the fairness of the 2016 U.S. election.

... If Bayer makes a decision to continue advertising on the Sean Hannity Show, I and others would feel a responsibility to call attention to the concerns detailed above, and to Bayer’s failure to abide by its own human rights policy, as well as its failure to respect the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other internationallyrecognized human rights standards.

Download the full document here