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Commons hears how NUJ Code is basis for ethical media

22 July 2011

The vital role of the NUJ Code of Conduct in securing media standards was underlined in the Commons debate on the Leveson inquiry by John McDonnell, the secretary of the NUJ Parliamentary Group. John McDonnell pointed out that the NUJ code was first developed in 1936 and other codes, like that of the Press Complaints Commission, are based on it.

Asked if the one of the most important results of the Leveson inquiry would be 'a media that tells the truth', John McDonnell replied:

"I think that we will arrive at that situation only if we enforce the code of conduct and if journalists and employers know where they stand and that, if they breach the code, journalists can stand up and be protected in law if they refuse to practise the sort of journalism we have seen recently.
"I urge the Leveson inquiry to examine the introduction of a conscience clause backed by statute to protect journalists who refuse to go into the sewer and use the methods that we have all condemned in these recent debates.
"The Leveson inquiry should consider anti-trade union legislation, which has been used to undermine employees' rights at places such as News International when unions have tried to protect members who have simply stood up for quality and ethical journalism."

The NUJ has said that the Leveson inquiry into media behaviour offers the opportunity to create a serious regulatory body across the media that would really work to uphold ethical standards and guarantee protection for journalists determined to abide by the NUJ code of conduct.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ General Secretary, said that the self-regulatory body should provide for serious penalties for media organisations that broke the code, as well as offering a reliable mechanism to deal with complaints from the public.

"Central to the development of an ethical environment for modern journalism must be a guarantee that journalists who uphold professional standards will be protected against management pressure to chase circulation by behaving unethically. No journalist should be threatened with the sack for standing up for quality journalism.
"The Murdoch scandal has created circumstances in which the media, journalists, and society as a whole can now move forward and design a new model of self-regulation which serves the interests of the public and the media industry in an honourable way.
"The Leveson inquiry must also address the issue of media ownership across the entire newspaper, broadcasting and new media industry. The NUJ has drawn attention to the harm being done by media giants who have swallowed up and asset-stripped so many of our local and regional newspapers. The damage done to the quality of local journalism, as jobs are axed and content compromised, is a threat to democracy as well as a disservice to loyal local readers."

The Leveson inquiry has also been welcomed by the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, which says the inquiry must consider "the extent to which the current policy and regulatory framework has failed" and "how media policy, regulations and cross-media ownership should be dealt with".

Tags: , leveson, ethics, john mcdonnell, cpbf, media reform, regulation, house of commons, news international, trade union freedom, code of conduct, cuts