A victory for journalists of conscience: Michelle Stanistreet's feature on the publication of Leveson in the Morning Star said: "NUJ chapels are not just a place where journalists talk about their pay or terms and conditions - it's where journalists can raise issues of concern on matters ethical, on staffing levels and on bullying and editorial pressure within their workplace." Read the full piece on the Morning Star website
John McDonnell MP gets assurances from David Cameron on the conscience clause in House of Commons: "I wonder whether we could achieve consensus on one of the recommendations in the report, where Leveson recommends the consideration by proprietors of the introduction of a conscience clause to protect journalists who refuse in any way to go against the code of practice. Will the Prime Minister join me in urging proprietors to meet the National Union of Journalists and whoever else to start working on introducing a conscience clause in contracts?"
The Prime Minister: I am very happy to agree to that. There are many sensible recommendations that can be put into place, I would hope, as quickly as possible - some of the recommendations about the police and the Association of Chief Police Officers, and many of the recommendations about politicians and our relationship with the press. Those do not have to wait for anything, and as I have said, the press do not have to wait for any further discussions; they can start putting this regulation in place straight away. Read Hansard here
Listen to the CPBF podcast - Nicholas Jones heard the views of Frances O’Grady, the new TUC general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, leader of the National Union of Journalists, and Julian Petley, co-chair of the CPBF and professor of media studies at Brunel University.
Leveon Inquiry -
The Leveson Inquiry was set up by the Prime Minister to examine culture, practices and ethics. Lord Justice Leveson was asked to examine the relationship of the press with the public, police and politicians.
It was set up in response to the exposé of illegal activities such as telephone hacking and police bribery by the News of the World, with the hacking of the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler being one of the lowest points of journalistic history.
The NUJ had to fight to be included as core participants, joining the national newspaper groups, the police and a range of victims of the press.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, wrote to all members, saying “We must not allow the newspaper bosses to dominate this inquiry and we must ensure the concerns, experiences and views of ordinary working journalists are placed firmly at its heart. To do that, we need your help."
The union sent a letter to all members about the Inquiry and we asked people to come forward to let the union know about their views and experiences to inform our work and submissions to Lord Justice Leveson.
An email address was set up for members to get in touch with the union about their views on the inquiry and also to give confidential information about the bullying culture of newsrooms.
A Leveson working group comprising officials and members of the national executive was set up. Michelle Stanistreet and other NUJ representatives have attended a large number of branch meeting explaining the NUJ's role in Leveson.
The union organised a public conference in March 2012 in London with the TUC and the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom to discuss the Inquiry and associated key themes.Read about the conference
Lord Justice Leveson opened the hearings on 14 November 2011, saying: "The press provides an essential check on all aspects of public life. That is why any failure within the media affects all of us. At the heart of this Inquiry, therefore, may be one simple question: who guards the guardians?"
The Inquiry was divided into four modules:
- Module 1: The relationship between the press and the public and looks at phone-hacking and other potentially illegal behaviour.
- Module 2: The relationships between the press and police and the extent to which that has operated in the public interest.
- Module 3: The relationship between press and politicians.
- Module 4: Recommendations for a more effective policy and regulation that supports the integrity and freedom of the press while encouraging the highest ethical standards.
The NUJ's final submission to the Inquiry sums up our key themes and concerns and it can be downloaded here.
Barry McCall, NUJ President busts some of the media myths about the union's work. "In our final submission to the Leveson Inquiry the NUJ proposed a system of independent press regulation underpinned by statute. This does not mean state regulation of the press nor does it mean statutory regulation of the press as has been claimed in some quarters." Read it in full here
In the NUJ’s first witness statementto the inquiry Michelle Stanistreet explained the NUJ Code of Conduct, she said the union has always stood for high journalistic standards based on the Code and has consistently backed members who are willing to take a stand for ethical journalism.
The statement said: “The NUJ has campaigned for a Conscience Clause for many years - having such a clause in a contract of employment would allow journalists to stand up on a point of journalistic ethics without fear of being dismissed. It would give journalists the right and the confidence to ensure the code becomes an everyday part of journalistic decision making.”
It added: “It is significant that the unfolding scandal at News International happened in a workplace where the NUJ has been effectively blocked by Rupert Murdoch. Journalists working across the titles have been denied the collective representation of an independent trade union for a generation.”
The submission set out the union’s view, that had been agreed by its policy-forming Delegates Meeting in April 2011 and argued that the Press Complaints Commission is beyond repair and should be abolished.
It started the debate on what the shape of a new regulator should be: “This new body must have investigatory powers, including the power to call witnesses. It needs to be able to impose penalties, for example fines, and act as a genuine recourse for members of the public making complaints.
"The structure needs to stand the test of time and should include owners, journalists, and the public. A key part of its remit must be to ensure the statutory Right of Reply (with due prominence) to factual inaccuracies. This is key to giving the public confidence in the regulation of the work of journalists and the practices within the newspaper industry.”
The NUJ's second witness statementaddressed the bullying culture in many newsrooms: “Bullying is endemic and a culture of impunity exists that allows the perpetrators - the majority of whom are senior newsroom executives - to go unchecked. Too many journalists are put under intolerable and inhumane pressure to deliver stories - whatever the means.”
The union made the case for Michelle Stanistreet to present anonymised witness statements made by NUJ members about their experiences at work. This was challenged by Associated Newspapers, but its attempt to block the publication of the document was dismissed by the High Court.
The NUJ's second witness statement described the level of bullying suffered by journalists at the hands of newspaper executives, including one reporter who had already been subject to jibes about her weight being forced to go out in the street dressed Lady-Gaga-style in a dress made from meat. There are many other examples of unethical newsroom practices contained in the NUJ's submission - read the full document here.
Most of the first module was taken up with hearing evidence from victims of the press, either by phone hacking or intrusion to their privacy.
Witnesses included the parents of Milly Dowler, the parents of Madeleine McCann, Chris Jefferies, who was falsely implicated in the murder of Joanna Yates, as well as celebrities including JK Rowling and Sienna Miller.
The submission outlined a number of cases where journalists have been intimidated by the police when they have been protecting the source of their stories or where photographers had been issued with production orders demanding footage or photographs.
The submission for module 2 illustrates the extensive work the union has done to defend members and protect sources.
Module 3: press and politicians
This module included evidence from David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and John Major among politicians and members of the press.
Michelle Stanistreet summed up the module for a blog posted on the Left Foot Forward website: 'Country supper' tables, discreet bars in Mayfair gentleman's clubs, pyjama parties and the baptism font have all been locations featured in the Leveson Inquiry's investigation into the relationship between politicians, journalists and newspaper proprietors
Module 4: media reform
During this module, the NUJ highlighted the need for change and urged the Inquiry to develop an effective framework that supports the integrity and freedom of the press whilst encouraging the highest ethical standards.
The NUJ sent a number of submissions to the Inquiry for this module and Michelle Stanistreet and Professor Chris Frost, chair of the NUJ Ethics Councils, both gave evidence in person to Lord Justice Leveson.
The NUJ arguued that the Press Complaints Commission was entirely discredited and a slightly beefed up and revamped PPC proposed by Lords Black and Hunt was just more of the same.
The NUJ called for a body which is independent of the state and the industry and which included journalists and the public.
Jim Boumelha, president of the International Federation of Journalists, outlined the range of media accountability systems that exist throughout the world, many of which demonstrate a healthy balance of participation between journalists, via their trade union, the industry and the public.
Chris Frost, chair of the NUJ Ethics Council set out the history of press regulation and outlined a proposed structure for a Press Standards Council, with a board and ombudsman. He proposed that two-fifths of the board would be from press organisations, such as the NUJ and the Society of Editors and the rest would be made up of representatives of the public appointed by an appointments committee. The board would determine the policies of the new body and draw up a code of practice, including a conscience clause for journalists.The ombudsman would be responsible for processing complaints. His submission to the Inquiry
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary said in her submission: "The primary duty of any new body must be to ensure the freedom of the press. It must be free from interference from the state and politicians - and equally independent of the media owners and editors. Whilst the NUJ is hugely disappointed that we have reached this point, despite more than 20 years of campaigning for reform of the PCC and press regulation, we now see it as inevitable that there should be some statutory provision for a new regulator that would be able to take complaints, enforce penalties, carry out investigations and monitor performance. The legislation would need to identify who would be regulated by the new body, how the new body would be funded and how it would be constituted.
Seamus Dooley, NUJ Irish Secretary also submitted evidence to the Inquiry. He gave an outline of the Irish Press Council and showed how co-regulation, underpinned by statute, is working in Ireland. His evidence to the Inquiry
NUJ looks to Leveson to back conscience clause for journalists The National Union of Journalists is urging Lord Justice Leveson to back a conscience clause to safeguard journalists who object to being compelled by their bosses to act unethically in pursuit of a story.
History repeats itself as media bosses oppose change
NUJ Irish Secretary says 'statutory underpinning' of the press regulator does not equal 'state control'
In Ireland, the NUJ was a member of the industry steering committee which helped lay the foundations for the Press Council of Ireland. The NUJ does not favour statutory regulation of the media. Not in the UK. Not in the Republic of Ireland. Not anywhere, writes Seamus Dooley, NUJ Irish Secretary.