DM2023: International

  • 28 Apr 2023

Jim Boumelha opened a series of debates about solidarity for journalists worldwide.

The international  section of DM was opened by Jim Boumelha speaking on behalf of the NEC on a motion, amended by Nottingham branch, about the huge effort by NUJ members who responded to appeals made by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and unions in Ukraine and Afghanistan.

He said an enormous outpouring of empathy was triggered following the fall of Kabul. He thanked all members who participated in the massive efforts looking after each other. “An injury to one is an injury to all” he said, as he reminded delegates of the power of solidarity. Di Peasey, Nottingham branch, speaking in support of the motion also highlighted how vital support was, flagging there is still so much more members can do.

The IFJ’s solidarity fund received €123,000 and distributed €63,000 of this through affiliates, the Afghanistan National Journalists’ Union and Afghan Independent Journalists Association, and in direct small grants paid through Western Union, to at least 172 journalists and their families. A significant sum was also provided to journalists who had fled to Pakistan through IFJ affiliate Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and via small cash grants.

Funds had also been used to support journalists in countries including Turkey, Greece and France. Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, provided a point of information to DM confirming the amounts referenced as donated were wholly accurate as fully accounted for by the International Federation of Journalists, following Safi Tazib speaking in opposition of the motion.

Séamus Dooley, speaking on behalf of the Irish Executive Council, said the lives of members had been put at risk from false accusations, despite the diligence demonstrated through full accounting of funds.

The war on Ukraine saw global solidarity including from NUJ members and donations to the IFJ and European Federation of Journalists meant journalists had been supported with first aid kits, via solidarity centres, the provision of safety equipment and emergency accommodation. Conference passed the motion and instructed the NEC to continue its annual contribution to the IFJ international safety fund.

Motion 43 tabled by the NEC raised concerns about the fate of journalists in Hong Kong under draconian National Security Law, stifling press freedom. The motion noted that journalism in the country had declined and shifted away from its once vibrant and independent approach with journalists including jailed Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, now charged under restrictive media environments.  The NEC  was instructed to continue its assistance to our sister union in Hong Kong and to work with the IFJ to recruit and offer support to journalists relocating from Hong Kong to the UK.

Motion 44 focused on submissions to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the IFJ, Palestine Journalists Syndicate and the International Centre of Justice for Palestine. These had been made with support from Doughty Street Chambers and Bindmans LLP over targeting of journalists by Israeli soldiers resulting in injuries and deaths. Jim Boumelha spoke on behalf of the NEC and shared detail on two communications to the ICC, including one submitted in September 2022 following the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli forces, alongside the shooting of her colleague Ali Samoudi. The motion was carried and instructed the NEC to involve members across NUJ structures to call on the ICC prosecutor Kareem Khan to open an investigation, on the basis that there are substantial reasons to suspect crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction have been committed.  

An Irish Executive Council  (IEC)motion committed the NUJ to working with the IFJ on European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) matters including on economic, social and political interest especially in the context of policies of the European Union and Council of Europe. Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, proposed the motion on behalf of the IEC, and said trade union solidarity was at the heart of the IFJ, and that no hierarchy should be in place within groups. The motion which instructed the NEC to ensure work of the EFJ Steering Committee remains relevant to the international trade union movement values was carried.

Sarah Morgan speaking on behalf of the  London Magazine branch urged the NEC to be more proactive in its dissemination of arrests and detentions of journalists imprisoned worldwide for practising their profession. Julio Etchert spoke in support of the motion raising his past as an ex political prisoner, and informing delegates of the importance of supporting the motion. It instructed the NEC to ease the process for branches to send financial contributions to international campaigns on persecuted and imprisoned journalists. The motion was carried.

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