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NUJ repeats calls for conscience clause as journalists’ ethics discussed in parliament

24 February 2015

The culture, media and sport parliamentary select committee continue to review what progress has been made in implementing Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations for independent regulation of the press. Ipso representatives will be witnesses at the committee hearing and are expected to come under pressure to investigate the Daily Telegraph’s ethical framework.

The union continues to campaign for a conscience clause for all journalists. This was suggested to Leveson during the inquiry and he supported the NUJ’s proposals on a conscience clause as part of his report, as did the prime minister David Cameron. At the moment there is no specific clause in the editors’ code of practice that deals with this issue.

The executive summary of the Leveson report states:

"…I was struck by the evidence of journalists who felt that they might be put under pressure to do things that were unethical or against the code. I therefore suggest that the new independent self-regulatory body should establish a whistle-blowing hotline and encourage its members to ensure that journalists’ contracts include a conscience clause protecting them if they refuse."

The union wants to see any new ethical guidelines introduced at the Telegraph newspaper in relation to advertising and journalistic ethics to be meaningful and include a conscience clause for journalists. Journalists need to be protected and enabled to do the job they came into the industry to do without fear or favour, regardless of ownership. 

The NUJ's code of conduct says journalists should "resist threats or any other inducements to influence, distort or suppress information" and "does not by way of statement, voice or appearance endorse by advertisement any commercial product or service save for the promotion of her/his own work or of the medium by which she/he is employed".

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:

"The NUJ has been campaigning for years for a conscience clause in contracts of employment. Journalists need to be supported and encouraged to stand up for journalistic ethics and they need contractual protection against being dismissed if they do so.
"Journalists should have the right to refuse assignments that contravene their ethical code; no journalists should be disciplined or suffer detriment to their careers for asserting their right to act ethically."

Tags: , conscience clause, ipso, code of conduct, ethics, impress, press regulation, parliament uk, telegraph