London’s transport authority says it will remove bus adverts proclaiming that the late pop legend Michael Jackson was innocent over child sexual abuse claims.
Transport for London (TfL) made the decision following a backlash from charities representing victims of child sex abuse.
The posters, which were financed through a crowdfunding campaign, featured the slogans: “FACTS DON’T LIE. PEOPLE DO” and “#MJINNOCENT.”
The adverts direct viewers to the website of The Michael Jackson Innocent Project, an organization that seeks to prove Jackson’s innocence.
The advertisement campaign was in response to a four-hour documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” broadcast last week, which included the accounts of two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who accused Jackson of repeated sexual abuse when they were children.
The Survivors Trust, a charity supporting victims of sexual abuse, expressed concern over the adverts, criticizing TfL for prioritizing “advertising revenue over the option of remaining neutral on such an emotional topic.”
“An advertising campaign such as this, paid for by a supporter of an alleged perpetrator, only serves to support a toxic social narrative that prevents survivors from thinking they will be believed and speaking up,” the charity told CNN in a statement.
TfL stated it had reviewed its position and “will be removing these advertisements.” “They have been rejected due to the public sensitivity and concern around their content,” TfL said in a statement.
Taj Jackson, Michael’s nephew, responded to news of TfL’s decision, writing on Twitter: “Let me know if there is any legal recourse for this from my end.”
The MJ Innocent Project also expressed concern over the announcement, but noted that the campaign is “much bigger” than the adverts, and will continue to highlight the “grave miscarriage of justice” that Jackson is suffering as a result of the accusations. The campaign told CNN that they are “looking into all possible options” about how to continue spreading their message.
“Take solace knowing that we are winning this battle and rest assured, to anyone who thought having our campaign featured on the side of buses was a big deal… just wait until you see what else we have in store,” the organization wrote on Twitter.
Anika Kotecha, a lawyer and one of the campaign’s organizers, told CNN she was “really disappointed” with the ruling and described it as an “affront to free speech and the presumption of innocence before proven guilty.”
She described the documentary as “one-sided” and condemned it for not look at any “evidence to the contrary.”
“As soon as someone makes as accusation it is accepted as fact, so why go through due process?” she questioned.
“I’m not defending him because he can sing or he can dance. A victim of false allegations is as much a victim as one of real child abuse,” she previously told CNN.
The documentary, which was broadcast on the British television network Channel 4, sparked protests from Jackson defenders outside the organization’s headquarters in London before its launch.
Robson, 36, and Safechuck, 41, allege that Jackson groomed and molested them as children, and say that the abuse lasted for multiple years, only ending when Jackson met new children.
The Jackson family rejected the accusations in a statement, saying: “Michael was subjected to a thorough investigation which included a surprise raid of Neverland and other properties as well as a jury trial where Michael was found to be completely innocent.”