Tuesday 12 July 2011

NUJ urged to back Hippocratic oath for journalists

Guardian columnist George Monbiot has proposed a Hippocratic oath for journalists as a way of cleaning up the media in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.

He says he would like to see the NUJ encourage its members to sign the oath, which reads:

"Our primary task is to hold power to account. We will prioritise those stories and issues which expose the interests of power. We will be wary of the relationships we form with the rich and powerful, and ensure that we don't become embedded in their society. We will not curry favour with politicians, businesses or other dominant groups by withholding scrutiny of their affairs, or twisting a story to suit their interests.

"We will stand up to the interests of the businesses we work for, and the advertisers which fund them. We will never take money for promulgating a particular opinion, and we will resist attempts to oblige us to adopt one.

"We will recognise and understand the power we wield and how it originates. We will challenge ourselves and our perception of the world as much as we challenge other people. When we turn out to be wrong, we will say so."

Monbiot adds: "If you don't like it, suggest a better idea. Something has to change: never again should a half a dozen oligarchs be allowed to dominate and corrupt the life of this country."

In a letter to the Guardian today, author and academic Tony Harcup says of the News of the World phone hacking scandal: "At such a moment it is worth recalling the words of Francis Williams in his book Dangerous Estate, published more than half a century ago: 'The guardianship of journalistic values rests primarily with the journalist. He [sic] must be ready, as must all men when issues of principle arise, to stand up and be counted.'

"The News of the World invested in journalism, and its investigative zeal uncovered some real scandals in its time. If only it had stuck to the more worthwhile targets, and if only a few more of those responsible for its downfall had been prepared to stand up and be counted occasionally, then all human life might still be there."

1 comment:

Alex Dawson said...

As I hope George is a member of the NUJ, it is his right to bring his suggestion to his next branch meeting and win the democratic argument through the open channels available to him to get his union to adopt his idea.

It won't fall from the clear blue sky just by calling for it to happen - the union is grass-roots led and members decide the policy of the union.

I would just point out, as has been pointed out elsewhere, that the NUJ wasn't recognised at Murdoch's empire because he took it upon himself to smash and divide the trade unions at his newspapers just over 25 years ago and we have been fighting from the outside ever since. I do believe this lack of collective identity and self-regulation among the journalists led in a large part to the illegal actions of some.

Therefore as nice as it will be for our members to have a shiny new oath to show off, it doesn't solve the fundamental problem of media bosses and companies that fight tooth and nail to keep NUJ organisation out of newsrooms and encourage their journalists not to be members of the union that fights to maintain ethics.

Our existing code of conduct is a pretty good guide in any case. http://www.nuj.org.uk/innerPagenuj.html?docid=174