NUJ signs joint statement objecting to charges for media coverage of the party conferences
The Conservative and Labour parties have introduced charges for journalists' access to conferences.
The NUJ has joined an alliance of media and free speech organisations, saying the charges will restrict open democracy and asking them to be dropped.
They said the £125 imposed by the Conservative Party could have a profound impact on freelance journalists, smaller outlets and local journalists. Labour had imposed £5, but since the letter, said that it was a voluntary carbon offset charge.
The letter said:
Our organisations, representing print, online, and broadcast media and free speech organisations object to the introduction of charging for media access to the Party Conferences this Autumn.
A fundamental tenet of a free and democratic society is the principle of open government and we believe this is best served by enabling journalists to freely report on matters of public interest and to stimulate political debate.
For any political party to restrict fair access by charging newsgatherers to attend conferences flies in the face of their public commitments to press freedom. While we understand staging well-administered and secure events is costly, the news industry already contributes significantly by putting its reporting teams on the ground, backed by newsroom operations.
Admission fees, such as the £125 imposed by the Conservative Party, could have a particularly profound impact on freelance journalists, smaller outlets, local journalists and foreign correspondents. At a time when the UK government continues to assert its credentials globally, as a bastion of media freedom, this decision sets a dangerous precedent for countries around the world who will use this decision to justify financial and other barriers to media scrutiny of the political process.
The Labour Party have introduced similar fees, albeit at the much lower rate of £5.
We therefore call upon party conference organisers to commit to enabling a free press to inform society by withdrawing any charges on journalists to attend conferences. Any such attendance fees are a tax on democracy, organisers must scrap the media access charges now.
The signatories are:
Foreign Press Association
News Media Association
News Media Coalition
Society of Editors
Association of European Journalists
Commonwealth Press Union
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Index on Censorship
International Press Institute (IPI)
National Union of Journalists
Professional Publishers Association
Rory Peck Trust
• The Conservative Party has introduced a £125 media accreditation charge.
• The Labour Party has introduced a £5 media accreditation charge.
• The Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru do not charge for media accreditation.