NUJ press card - rights and duties

  • 04 May 2021

The UK Press card is authorised by industry gatekeepers including the NUJ and issued through the UK Press Card Authority.

The NUJ is the largest issuer of the UKPCA card and approves the majority of freelance journalist applications. Members in the Republic of Ireland are issued with an NUJ press card that is recognised by the Garda and the courts.

A Press Card is designed to allow journalists access to places that may be limited to the public because the authorities have placed restrictions on an area or because there are commercial limitations such as at sports grounds, theatres or clubs. The card is designed to identify the holder as a journalist there to report an event. The card supports the principle of a free media in that it should allow them unfettered access to the event provided they are there as an observer planning to report the event and not a participant or activist.

The NUJ has been reviewing its press card authorisation policy following the difficulties many members have faced whilst covering various demonstrations and other disruptive public events.

The union has also been in discussions with police chiefs to improve their support for the card. It is important that the authorities take the card seriously in order to offer maximum protection to journalists in the field and to ensure the police understand why journalists are there and what they are trying to do.

Please do not abuse your press card as this could bring journalism and the union into disrepute and mean that covering difficult events could become even more dangerous for all journalists.

Abusing the press card to seek entry to a paying event for free with no plan to report on it or as a protection against disruptive activism at a meeting or demonstration puts other journalists at risk of being excluded from the event or worse, facing antagonism or violence from police or lack of protection from attack at a public event where feelings are running high.

NUJ members should understand that using the press card for personal advantage is a potential breach of the Membership Responsibilities as described in the rules and could bring the union and its members into disrepute. A complaint and subsequent disciplinary hearing on the matter could lead to a member being expelled.

Eligibility for a press card:

  • Only full members, temporary members, life members or members of honour are eligible for a press card.
  • Press cards can only be issued to members who require them to facilitate their professional duties. Members must provide evidence that they regularly carry out work that requires a press card.
  • Complaints regarding abuse of the press card will be investigated and a card may be revoked by the General Secretary if there is evidence that its use has been abused.
  • A member may appeal to the Finance Committee of the NEC if they feel their card was withdrawn without good cause.

Examples of work requiring a press card:

  • General staff news reporting, photography or videography;
  • Sports reporting;
  • Fashion reporting;
  • Arts reporting including theatre criticism;
  • Reporting requiring access to restricted venues.

These should apply to staff reporters, photographers and videographers, freelance reporters working to a commission and freelance reporters working speculatively who can provide evidence of previous payments for jobs done speculatively.

Advice to NUJ press card holders:

Members should keep their press card safe and available for examination if requested.

  • Do not wear your card on a lanyard, unless asked to do so, as it could become a safety hazard in a disruptive situation.
  • If you are asked to show your card by a police officer or other appropriate authority, then you should do so without debate.
  • Always ensure you remember your UKPCA PIN number as you will be asked for it should a police officer ring the membership check phoneline.
  • Only use the press card on occasions when you are reporting on an event.
  • Do not be tempted to use your press card on occasions when you are actively involved in the event rather than as an observer.
  • Members with press cards should remember this is not a right of membership but is there for your protection and it can be withdrawn.

Return to listing