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NUJ looks to Leveson to back conscience clause for journalists

29 November 2012

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.

The union fought to be a 'core participant' in the Leveson inquiry to ensure that the voice of working journalists was heard, rather than just the representatives of owners and the editors of the national press. This allowed NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet to give crucial evidence showing the level of bullying of staff in some newsrooms.

Michelle Stanistreet said, in a letter to NUJ members:

"From the outset of the Leveson inquiry, we demanded a conscience clause to safeguard journalists who object to being made to act unethically in the pursuit of a story. The industry – both the Press Complaints Commission and the Society of Editors – has repeatedly refused to bring in a conscience clause, despite the Home Affairs Select Committee backing this NUJ's campaign as long ago as 2003.

"We highlighted the vital role a trade union plays in any workplace, and how in journalism the NUJ plays a role in maintaining standards and standing up for ethical journalism, as well as the bread and butter industrial issues of pay and conditions. We explained to Lord Leveson that an NUJ workplace chapel is not simply the vehicle for putting together pay claims and campaigning for better terms and conditions it is also the place where members can raise issues of concern on ethical matters, on staffing levels, and on bullying and editorial pressure within their workplace."

The NUJ has argued for an independent regulatory body – independent of both government and of the industry - that will:

  • protect free expression and a free press
  • ensure high standards of journalism
  • have the authority and ability to regulate all commercially-driven press
  • include, as does the Irish Press Council, union representatives
  • fully defend journalists who protect their sources
  • enshrine a conscience clause for journalist
  • take to task the bullying newsrooms exposed by NUJ evidence to Leveson, recognising the vital role trade unions play in media newsrooms  
  • have the power to instigate investigations, including acting on complaints from journalists
  • provide a right of reply
  • be backed by the ability to impose sanctions, such as fines.

The NUJ has also called for increased media plurality, with limits placed on media ownership.

Read all the NUJ submissions to the Inquiry.

The NUJ is supporting a lobby of MPs on the Lord Justice Leveson's report as it is published tomorrow.

Tags: Leveson, ethics, conscience clause, regulation, ownership